I know we feel closer to God in different ways at different stages of life, but for me - nature has always been where I see, hear, and feel God the most. Jesus Himself uses nature as analogous to our faith and actions in many of His teachings.
In nature I don't find anything artificial or with its own agenda regarding my soul. And there I can truly "be still" and listen to God. Regarding the wonders of His creation are a form of very private worship for me very different, but not replacing, the acts of worship such as singing and serving.
Today - nature has taught me a couple of lessons. The first being about good soil. In the gospel, Jesus teaches about the different types of soil - an analogy for our acceptance of His word, and what we do with it upon hearing. In those with souls like rocks the Word cannot take root, in some souls it springs up quickly - like a fad - and fades because it has no strong roots. Sometimes the world chokes out the growth - the weeds have been allowed to take over.
This brings me to my little lesson today - when I picture weeds choking out a plant, I picture something tall like a goldenrod towering over a bean plant, stealing its sunlight. But that is so obvious - what about the more subtle "weeds?"
I have an ivy I keep in my kitchen. It came from cuttings that my mother gave me. I was very proud of the way it took root and has been growing. Little did I know that the soil was breeding an infestation of what are known as fungus gnats. Their larvae are tiny, the eggs microscopic, the adults are small and plentiful. And annoying! I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out where they were coming from. Taking out the garbage before it was full didn't help. Cleaning the drains in the kitchen didn't help. Then I realized that they seemed most concentrated around my plant.
After doing some research - I found that they are generally harmless - but could be hurting the tender, new-growth roots of my plant. These verses about soil immediately popped into my mind. Like a warning, that just because we are "good soil" - in which God's Word has taken root and grown - subtle destruction can sneak into our lives and prevent further growth - prevent us from producing new seeds. Everything looks fine on the outside - perhaps we are not prone to drunkenness, gambling, stealing - more obvious sins (though these can be hidden as well). But our thought life - the things we think about other people, the things we choose to fill our minds with, jealousy, anger, hatred ... could be rotting us from within.
The plant is outside being treated with a combination fungicide/insecticide. If that doesn't work - I will have to throw it out and start over. Much like God teaches us about rebuking a brother or sister - if they do not change their ways, you must part with them. The infection can easily spread.
So what is the answer to preventing this? Well, nature showed me that too. I've been watching the "Planet Earth" series - it's simply amazing. Words can describe it, and I can't imagine what the real scenes must have looked like out from behind the lens.
The first thoughts they've provoked are those not-quite forgotten dreams of being a wildlife photographer - but also something deeper. Watching the struggles that the animals endure, the way they persevere ... God has given them the tools and the strength they need to overcome mountain passes over 5 miles high, to go for months without food while feeding and protecting their young from winter's cold, traveling hundreds of miles for food and water across parched desert with sand blowing around them.
If they want for nothing - I want for nothing to persevere and keep the health of my soul like that of the good and fertile soil - both the seen, and the unseen. God cares enough about nature to provide for the plants and animals - how much more must He care about me to send His son to die for me? It is not too much for me to handle with His help.