I live in Oregon. The beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Recently I’ve been enjoying drives and hikes out into the wild places to savor the sights, smells, and sounds.
This part of the world features dazzling waterfalls and rivers, endless green forests, and the snow-capped Cascade mountains. It really is a treasure to live here.
As I’ve been exploring – one of my favorite parts has been to burst through a bunch of bushes or round a corner and come up on a jaw-dropping new view. I love looking out across the Columbia River Gorge or up at Mount Hood and losing my breath at the scene laid out before me. My eyes go wide. My mount shuts. And I drink it all in.
It is a good antidote to the limited real estate of my flickering smartphone screen. It refreshes my soul to be able to leave the comforts of my home and enter into the wild places. I feel small. I feel grateful. I feel afraid. I feel as if I am not the center of the solar system. It allows me to gain perspective on reality.
I breathe in. My heart pounds. And I’m grateful.
I’ve been meditating on God’s holiness over the past few weeks as well. During this time I’ve been profoundly moved by A. W. Tozer’s book Knowledge of the Holy.
In my modern life I find my day packed with meetings and endless tasks. I read news about mind-numbing tragedies and scandals. And I swim in a culture obsessed with self-preservation, comfort, and exponential bar charts. I start to get a skewed perspective on things.
I’ve discovered that in this culture we tend to zero in on attributes ascribed to God which mirror the sins of the day and the sins of our own hearts. We imagine a God dedicated to alleviating our discomfort. We wear t-shirts with verses proclaiming God’s love and his desire to bless us. We sing songs of worship which extensively feature the word “ME.” Our spiritual and physical lives become warm, safe, and centered on personal comforts. All the while we quickly flip past stories in scripture of God being wild, holy, and dangerous. And we quickly flip past commands and expectations of humans to be holy, submitted, and pure. A. W. Tozer writes “We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing.”
Sure. God is loving and gentle. But we need to remember that he is also dangerous and holy.
C.S. Lewis was alluding to these attributes when he described the lion character Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia.
“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
The prophet Isaiah in the scriptures describes a very bizarre scene early on in his ministry. He was given an experiential glimpse of the presence and holiness of God. It was a sight of smoke, fire, angels, and thundering voices. And what was his response?
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
This is the normal and natural response to a genuine encounter with the divine. A pounding heart. A gaping jaw. A sense of inadequacy and dread. Our hands get wet and our hearts fill with fear.
With Isaiah we realize we are completely undone. We are keenly aware of every scrap of sin in our hearts and desire desperately to be clean. The holiness of God gives us the perspective we need and the humility that we’ve lost in our selfie generation.
I want to keep coming back to the mountains and wild places to silently savor the stunning views. It is often frightening – but it is good for my soul.
In the same way I desire to keep coming back to the holiness and wild nature of God. I need to leave the comfortable parts of my theology and keep venturing back into those wild places.
I’ve been rediscovering that these journeys into the wild places are critical for the health of my soul.