Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming Back from the North Shore

I usually try to post something every weekend but this past weekend, I did not. I didn't post anything because I was off camping with my wife and some of our friends.

I snapped this one of my friends at Temperance River
State Park and posted it here.
Now that I'm back, I have this sense of longing and I feel like I'm always forgetting something. I think that this sense of emptiness, if I gave into it, could cause me to go back out into the wilderness, thinking that everything is easier there. And I think it is... things seem to make more sense, there is less to worry about. People even seem more honest when you're out hiking through state parks.

And then there's the scenery. We were up on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the vistas were incredible. They were moving. And I know I might be painting a "grass is greener" type of picture, but I have genuinely felt sad here at home now because the potted plants and the mowed lawn outside my sliding glass door don't really inspire the same sense of awe and majesty that I felt gazing at the landscape on the North Shore.

So let's see if I can describe to you what I felt and see what shape it takes...

I will admit that I had a genuine transcendent experience of the divine on the the shore of Lake Superior. Take a look at the picture I posted above from the Temperance River campground. My friends and I were taking a break and sitting out on the rocks on the lakeshore. Or rather I should say that we were sitting out on a rock mass that the water rushed up on. I was completely captured by imagining how much that rock would weigh if somehow it were to come free of the rest of the shore. And I was amazed by realizing how insignificant my size is next to it. No matter how strong I might think myself, there is no influence that I have over that rock.

As I was thinking about that, I noticed how the waves washing up on the rock have worn smooth the edges of this gigantic rock. The water has the ability to mold the rock over the eons that it has been washing over it. This water that is so cold and frigid in the middle of the summer (that must be even colder in the winter), and is so much stronger than me. I have gone swimming in Lake Superior, and it is no cake-walk. You hit the water and the air goes out of your lungs. For every stroke you swim, the waves can pull you farther and farther out. No matter how good of a swimmer I may think myself, I am no match for Lake Superior. But nonetheless, the lake has been carving the rock I was sitting on for a longer time than I can conceptualize.

Yes, that's me climbing out there.
One of my friends snapped this
picture as I was trying to figure
out how to get back from the edge.
And that was just this rock on this beach. When I was sitting there at the Temperance River campground, I remembered that there are beaches like this all along the shore of the lake. Some places it's not even a beach that the lake washes up on, but stony cliffs that have nonetheless felt the carving power of the lake.

All of this is so rugged and beautiful. It's massive in scope and it's also minute; all over the rocks that sit on the edge of the lake are these tiny blue bell flowers that bloom. They are so extremely beautiful, if nothing else because it is a fragile, fleeting life that clings on and grows regardless of the huge, eroding power of the lake on the rocks.

And that was the transcendent experience, because I realized that this was all a part of the created world. The massive rocks, the movement of the water, the beauty of sprouting life. The fact that this is all just one lake in one part of one country on Earth. Trying to imagine the beauty of the created world elsewhere, in places that I will never visit astounds me.

But nonetheless, there is Creator with the kind of cosmic power to create all this in its enormous expanse and still have an extreme attention to the smallest bloom.

Standing there on the edge of Lake Superior, I felt like I understood my place. And in awe of all of it, I drank in the beauty of everything bigger and smaller than me.

But then I had to come home.

Amanda and I decided not to unpack the car when we got home on Monday. It was late and we were tired. Four days of hiking and swimming and contemplating the created world can really wear a person out, and three nights of sleeping on unfamiliar ground can make someone want their own familiar bed back. So the next day I unpacked the car and brought all of our gear inside to put it away. I felt like I was on the edge of tears the entire time.

Out camping on the North Shore, I felt like I had a place and a purpose. I cooked food for my beloved friends and they were able to eat and be happy and the food fueled them to see all the wonderful things we saw each day. I felt the natural rhythm of a day and I was able to wordlessly move along with it. Things felt clear. I felt vibrant. Now that I'm home, I've lost some of that.

So where is the resurrection in this? I mean, since I'm writing about this on my blog, I should be asking what I can learn from this experience and what kind of discernment has been given to me... that's been my song and dance for a few posts now. But honestly, I really don't know for sure what discernment I have here.

I admit that I find it somewhat serendipitous that a trusted friend and mentor (not to mention former boss) suggested to me shortly before the North Shore trip that I might get back into the Boy Scouts as an adult leader. I mean, I am an Eagle Scout and this camping trip only reinforces to me how much I enjoy flexing my outdoorsman muscles. I enjoy working with teenagers, to boot. Will that lend me a greater sense of purpose? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to try it.

~ ~ ~

What do you think of my work-in-progress life? Have you every had similar experiences? Do you know the vast sense of majesty that I'm talking about with Lake Superior? Please start the conversation in the comments below, or start a conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

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