A Path to Loving God: 3 Places to Start

A Path to Loving God: 3 Places to Start April 20, 2021
Trees and a creek
Nature can be a path to loving God and neighbor. Spring on Beckley Creek, Louisville, Ky. Plein air painting by Susan E. Brooks

Spending time in nature can be a path to loving people and loving God more.

Nature as a Path to Loving God

Richard Rohr’s meditation for April 19 explains how Bonaventure taught this principle:

“Bonaventure taught that to work up to loving God, start with the easier lesson of loving the very humblest and simplest things, [such as a rock or a leaf, then a tree perhaps, then an animal, then humans] and then move up from there.”

This struck me as true. I had been feeling out of sorts, struggling a bit with feeling down, but then, for the first time since last fall, I went out to paint at a beautiful spot by a creek. Seeing the morning light cast upon the pale green of the spring grass contrasting with the red-brown of the creekside—I fell in love with nature, then people, and then God the Creator again.

My granddaughter crafted this dragon from leaves, feathers, and flowers placed into a wire frame.
Top view of the dragon my granddaughter crafted from found objects placed into a wire frame.

Nature Is Art

Reading Rohr’s meditation also reminded me of the “found object” sculpture project I did with my grandkids for their weekly art class. Children are always seeing natural objects as rare treasure. Take them outdoors, and they’ll collect rocks, sticks, leaves and feathers and bring them to the adults in their lives to marvel over their exquisiteness. As adults, we need to recreate the sense of wonder that seems to be innate in young children.

Does God Care About Nature?

Does an artist care about her artwork? Of course! And God cares about creation. Jesus says God provides for the birds and the flowers—even makes the flowers so beautiful “not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Matt. 6:29). Jesus taught lessons from nature often, so I think we have much to learn from her.

Plein air painting is not for everyone, so where can you start if you need a nature break?

1. Your Own Backyard

A green space of any size can be a place to practice a little solitude and silence, listening to God speak through the natural world. Add a chair and a bird feeder, and you can think about how God painted the birds in such fun colors—just to give us joy, I like to think.

One morning I was sitting in the yard of my subdivision house, and a deer walked right beside me! I jumped with fright at first to see the broad side of a large animal so close, but he walked on by, then turned to stare for a moment before moving on. Daily, I want to celebrate the beauty of the natural world which points to God’s love for us.

2. The Local Park

Most towns have parks where city dwellers can escape to get a new perspective on life. Too many times we just need to slow down, listen and observe. If you can stay long enough, watch how the colors change with the movement of the sunlight. Breathe deeply, and say a prayer of thanks for the fresh air and cool shade.

3. Walk the Path With a Young Child

When my children were toddlers, taking a walk with them was either a chore or a delight, depending on whether I had to get somewhere by a certain hour. We were always stopping to pick up precious objects like acorns or wild flowers. If you need a refresh, take a slow walk with a toddler and try to notice every little detail along the way. The other day my granddaughter picked up a fluffy dandelion and blew the seeds after making a wish. “I wish it would rain my favorite kind of babies!” she said with a big puff of breath.

Some would say she was ruining the lawn, but I enjoyed the moment, looking skyward in case I might need to dodge the baby dolls raining down.

A Path to Loving God

Sometimes it’s hard to feel loving toward a creator we cannot see, but if we open our eyes to God’s good gifts all around us, we might find a place to start.

Any stories of nature bringing you closer to God? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

I’m an artist who loves to write. If you’d like to get to know me better, please follow me on social media.

My Blog: susanebrooks.com

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