Sarah Champlin, Minister of Youth, Young Adults, and Mission
We always slept next to running water. That was one of the rules of the wilderness: we had to be near a water source when we made our camp. The river functioned not only as an all-natural white noise machine to soothe us to sleep, but also as our refill station: we filtered it for drinking, and we boiled it for our just-add-water backpacking dinners. The rivers and streams of the Olympic National Park served as our steadfast companions all week as we journeyed for five days and four nights. At the end of a long day, running water sounded like sweet relief, a soothing call from the wild saying, “You made it! Take your shoes off your sore feet and come dip your toes in me.”
During our week in the wilderness, the confirmation students and I found a new appreciation for our own aliveness. Without cell reception or even McDonald’s, we were left with no option but to pay deep attention to the natural splendor around us and the functioning capacity of our bodies and spirits. We went back to the basics: we walked all day. We ate food when we were hungry, drank water when we were thirsty. We gawked at waterfalls and mountain views. We giggled relentlessly, delighted by each other’s presence. We crashed, exhausted every night, into our tents to sleep. Our daily rhythms allowed us to focus on the present, centered around one simple, miraculous fact: we are alive. This basic fact—we are alive—turns out to be an excellent starting point to begin noticing the presence of God.
And notice God we certainly did. At the end of each day, we asked each other the same two questions: Where did you see God today? And where did God see you? Our answers often referenced the natural beauty that surrounded us: we saw God in the trees, in the birds, in each other’s faces. Our answers also reflected the compassionate, life-giving nature of God: God protected us when we slipped and almost fell badly, God provided us with a cool stream when we needed it most, God comforted us when we got a bee sting. Sometimes being in the mountains felt somewhat like a staring contest: our tiny, wide-eyed selves taking in God’s creation as God gazes back at us.
One of the psalms we read contains the line, “Deep called to deep, at the noise of your waterfalls…” (Psalm 42:7) Out in the wilderness, shed of superficialities and showers, we allow space for the deepness within ourselves to meet the deep, vast ocean that is God. Our basic aliveness seems not so basic after all, but rather part of a beautiful, infinite call and response. The noise of water over rocks as we quench our thirst at the campsite calls us back to the Source of All Life. Deep called to deep. Creation called to Creator. May we always remember to listen.