Having been raised in a traditional conservative Christian environment I was encouraged to go for a walk in the forest at least once a day for my spiritual health. Morning and evening walks were encouraged and for many years, like a good Christian, I followed this advice.
But these walks were, at least for me, mostly just a routine. I walked as quickly as possible – and did not really take the time to enjoy the view or consider the wonder of the many trees I passed every day.
How much these walks aided my spiritual wellbeing I am not now sure. A good practice – yes perhaps – but these days I see the forest from a completely different perspective. Rarely now, although sometimes, but even that has a different purpose, do I walk quickly through the forest just for the sake of it.
You see I was taught that the trees were the forest – when the subtile truth is that the forest is made up of trees. I was taught the Bible was the word of God – when in fact God is The Word and the Bible a revelation of who he is. I was taught that the better you knew the forest, its paths, twists and turns – the better equipped you would be to navigate the twists and turns of life. I am now not sure at all if that is true – for a variety of reasons. While the Bible contains trees of truth for life it does not follow that simply walking through it for the sake of “doing your devotions” will be of any benefit.
My walks in the forest now are slow and considered. I rarely get very far because my eye is drawn to a tree that may encapsulate mystery yet meaning – the unknowable yet revelatory, the unseen, at least to the natural eye, but full of significance at a deeper level. And I very often stand for hours in wonder before one tree – for, very often, wonder is all I can do. And when I walk away it is not with a sense of having understood it better – but with a deeper and more profound sense of the mystery of it all.
Looking back on life I believe that the rise of the so called “New Age Movement” in my generation was, at least in part, a reaction to the intellectualisation of spiritual truth and mystery within Christianity, at least in my tradition.
I can never remember as a child or young adult a call from preachers or teachers within my tradition for meditation or contemplative reflection on the mystery of God. All was directed to an intellectual knowledge and grasp of objective truth. But proof, if proof were needed, as to the bankruptcy of this form of theology has been all too obvious and frequent in the last few years. Sadly many of the brightest and best in this tradition have fallen into disgrace and worse. They have failed totally in life – despite the fact that they had a deep theological knowledge of the forest and wrote many books about it.
And so I leave you with a tree which has enthralled me most of this week. Of course I had seen it many times on my walks through the forest but never stopped to consider it. But I have now stood before it in awe – because, although at one level I might think I know what it means, I have found in it something much deeper which I cannot fully comprehend. But that’s ok with me now – I’m happy to live with the mystery of it all.
“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:4 [KJV]