Friday, March 03, 2006

Nature and healing

I know I've mentioned before the idea of nature being a healer, and I thought I would run with that thought a little more. After all, my long nature piece is about healing--and a little about reconciliation. It was through communion with nature that I came out of a season of clinical depression and came into communion with God. What was going on the whole time, was that He revealed Himself to me, piece by piece, through the natural world--His creation--and then it all came together and I knew that I couldn't be depressed anymore because the Lord of heaven and earth somehow loved me and wanted me to have a meaningful and joyful existence here on the earth. But there will be more on that later--say, perhaps, at the end of the semester.

But for me, nature was the beginning of my healing, and the vessel through which I was drawn out of a very dark time in my life. It was initially because nature would not reject me; if I drew close to nature, then I would know it and it would know me. Unlike in my relationships with friends and family--it came to a point where I did not want to trust anyone with a piece of myself again. I withdrew to nature often, listening to the sounds of birds and crickets and running water and wind through the trees, and letting the world listen to the sounds of my crying and my shouting and my breathing. There, my secrets were safe. There, I could be myself and never worry about being cast away.

There came a point when I started seeing so much of myself in nature, and it made me feel like I wasn't alone in the world anymore. I saw the weather change sometimes as unpredictably as my own stormy emotions; I saw flowers hide their faces from the sun; I saw little points of light in the night sky and knew that there was hope for me even when I felt like I was trapped in neverending darkness. I remember once I went to the zoo with a friend, and as we neared the tortoise exhibit it happened that the tortoises were mating--very loudly. When we got there people were crowded around, watching, whispering, pointing. I remember turning away, ashamed for the people who felt like this very private occurrence was for them to gawk at. And so I felt sympathy with nature, and in sympathy I found healing, because for so long I had not felt sympathy for anything except myself.

Finally, there was the realization that God made all things. He made the sky, the birds, the trees, the sunset, the tree-frog and the Venus flytrap. And He made me. And everything he made, he made with purpose. Do you remember the hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful"? All things bright and beautiful / all creatures great and small / all things wise and wonderful / the Lord God made them all... Look up the rest of the verses--it's a beautiful expression of God's creative nature. In that song I was able to remember God all around me, His personality shining through every single piece of artwork that He set on the earth--and I began to see myself as beautiful, "A rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys" (Song of Solomom 2:1). If that realization does not heal you and restore joy to your heart, then I don't know what does.

The whole process took a couple of years. Looking back it's hard for me to understand what I found to be so upset about for so long. But really, it didn't take much to upset me. If I had no purpose on this earth, if I did not have the very handprints of God all over me, then what would I have to be joyful about? I would rely on experiences--which is exactly what I did. And great experiences come and go. But God--just like nature, and in fact more so than nature--does not come and go. He does not change. And He created me and knows me, inside and out. Isn't that great? It's all I need for the rest of my life.

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