I’m a girl of the wilderness, wild at heart. There’s nowhere I feel more alive, more of who I was created to be, than outdoors in creation—and I don’t think I’m alone.

We were made for this stuff. Beauty. Enormity. Landscapes that artists can only copy. A pace that matches our soul beat.

Creation is where we’re awake to reality, and we sense it. That’s why you have a dream of a hobby farm where you grow succulent earth crops that feed more than people’s bellies. And why I have my dream of a mountain cabin where bone-weary guests can heal by the shores of a rushing river. The outdoors is healing.

The sites, the sounds, the smells, the tastes—all of our senses are sent an invitation by nature. She proclaims a consistent message: “Come, experience dangerous goodness. See what is true. Find your place in the universe. Respond to all this.”

When I moved to Denver following college, the mountainous Colorado backcountry was my backyard. Whether hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing, I was drawn to the soaring, cragged skyline, the fresh scent of the coniferous pine, and the sun’s yellow rays enveloping my entire being. It was in this natural setting that I found both freedom—from self-imposed and societal expectations—and truths about God and life.

What is it about creation that has the power to inspire and change us?

Being immersed in creation is a homecoming to both place and purpose. We were originally intended for life in a garden—a source of beauty, nourishment, and relationship. In the beginning, we had unencumbered access to God, meaningful work, and intimate community with others.

Compare that to much of our modern existence of life on a sin-filled earth. Relationally, we tend to retreat into our minds, our technology, and the little boxes we live in. We separate from people, from God, from beauty and goodness. We settle for dwelling in the shadows.

Call us out of the shadows, Lord.

Creation Testifies to God’s Nature

In Colorado, the most pristine wilderness areas are accessed by long, bumpy, pothole-filled roads, drawing the courageous types who’re willing to leave the asphalt behind in exchange for scenery and solitude.

Evidence of reaching somewhere good is encountering one of the signs at the beginning of a trailhead explaining the dangers of heading into the backcountry. Though the content varies, they share this slightly off-putting title:

Mountains Don’t Care

These placards are a reminder that when choosing to step out of the parking lot and onto a winding dirt trail lined with columbines and fat, furry marmots, adventure-seekers are at the mercy of whatever may arise. The mountains stubbornly refuse to alter their uncertainty in order to accommodate those who cross into the wilderness threshold. If they did so, they wouldn’t be the mountains—wild, unpredictable, vast, and offering adventure and vistas that make hearts soar and souls awaken.

God is like the mountains—powerful, awe-inducing, and sometimes dangerous. We are drawn to his attributes and want to feel like we are equals, like we can contain the mystery and totality that he is. But if that were true, he wouldn’t be God. It’s not that he doesn’t care like the signs say about the mountains. It’s that he cannot be boxed in by our assessment or expectations of him. His nature, though we know it to be the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), is not one that bends fully to human understanding and predictability.

This makes him more unsafe than we realize, in the best way. In C. S. Lewis’s beloved allegory The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan and Lucy ask if Aslan the lion is safe—to which Beaver answers with his memorable line, “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Creation shows us we serve a God that is both accessible and wild, a combination that draws us in and makes him all the more beautiful for it.

Creation Puts Us in Our Place

The trailhead signs also indicate no matter how prepared a hiker begins, there are ways that the backcountry tests the limits of human endurance, creativity, and knowledge. During my outdoor adventures, I’ve slid down the side of a gravel peak nearly tumbling to my death, been almost struck by lighting—the blue buzz landing just feet from where I was tucked in a clump of trees, encountered grizzly bears, suffered hypothermia and frostbite, gotten lost, and ran out of food.

Creation offers us perspective. We are small, helpless, and insignificant in a vast sea of peaks and potential dangers. We’ll never be able to count even a fraction of the stars. We in no way control the weather, animals, or landscapes. We simply get to enjoy and respect the space for what it is. Knowing our place in the universe gives us a clear sense of self, which frees us from trying to be kings and queens in our own mini-kingdoms.

“Join with all nature in manifold witness,” a well-known hymn suggests. In creation, we are put in our rightful place. We are witnesses. Worshipers. Blades of grass. Our imagined significance is called out in the perils and by the peaks.

Creation Asks Us for a Response

Understanding aspects of both God’s nature and our own insignificance in the world forces us to a response. “How is it then that you’d like to live? Would you like to dance with this creative, vast God? Are you willing to let him guide you through life’s trail, dangerous and beautiful? Or would you rather stay in the parking lot? Safe and stale in the car?”

Mary Oliver says it best, “And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’”

Creation offers a juxtaposition of our inadequacy and God’s beauty. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, ESV).

Go outside. See what God might say through his trees, clouds, rocks, and flowers. His art that pulls us out of ourselves, out of the mundane, and toward eternity.

Search the Scriptures with fresh eyes. God uses nature themes throughout the Bible. Light and darkness, water and desert, mountains and valleys, trees and roots, and even rocks get consistent mentions. God was intentional in creating, and also his use of creation in the written Word.

Creation has a message.

A message that surpasses cultural trends.

A message that can be experienced by all of our senses.

A message that gives us hope.

A message that brings freedom.

A message of beauty.

A message about the one who willed her to be.

Let her sing you to sleep.

Let her wake you up.

Let her heal you.

Let her testify.

Let her call you to eternity.

Let her show you the Creator.

Heidi Wheeler
Heidi loves to be in community with other women, mutually encouraging each other to health and wholeness of mind, body and spirit. She tries to balance a full plate (and sometimes fails)—mothering four young kids, being married, working part time in healthcare, organizing concerts to help infuse art into faith, and too many other interests. Her work can be found a variety of places throughout the internet, and.she's a regular contributor to the MKE Moms Blog, the content coordinator for her town's local magazine, and blogs about faith and family at www.theblessednest.com

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  1. Wow, what a perfect piece for my first exposure to this writers guild. Especially with our upcoming move to New Mexico where I’ll be much more immersed in the great outdoors, this is inspiring and timely. Thanks Heidi, I’m so happy we met this weekend!

    1. Thanks for reading Maureen, I hope your move West is a blessing to you, despite all that you’re leaving behind. It was a joy to meet you, too!

    1. So wonderful Katrina! May we walk a piece of the trail together someday, if not on earth, in eternity! XO

  2. Beautifully written. Putting into words so many of the impressions I’ve had while hiking in the wilderness.

  3. We were made to be in the garden… I absolutely connect with this. I find myself closet to the Father in nature as well. This Indiana girl is heading to the ocean today and I can’t wait to sit and smell it and feel it and remember God’s hand is in it, his breath is on the wind. Thank you for sharing Heidi.

    1. Oh wonderful Janna, enjoy His breath on your soul! Hopefully we’ll get to take in some wilderness together through some Redbud thing someday. XO

  4. I love the piece and I love the wild heart! I too am an outdoor girl. I would rather be out than in and I am closest to GOD under his wide open skies and his rushing winds. The vast raw beauty will sweep me into his arms faster than any pew.
    Thank you for this lovely piece of writing.
    I look forward to many more!

    1. I can see this about you, it’s evident in the pics you post and how you live! Kind of jealous of your backyard sometimes! 🙂

  5. Heidi, by definition, I am not an outdoor enthusiast. My hobbies usually involve a nice cozy spot where I can read or write. However, I love the beauty of God’s paintbrush as I glance outside or sit beneath the starry skies on a warm Summer night or near the calming waves on the beach. I love your call to see nature as testifying to God’s character. Recently, I have read that Japanese culture values presence in the woods as a necessary factor to mental health. You have pushed me to consider how we, in our developed nation, gravitate to the shadows. By doing so, how much are we actually choosing to resist God’s presence trying to restore us to wholeness? Such good thoughts here.

    1. Stephanie- I loved your comment. And that you gave me new info about the Japanese valuing the woods for health. I want to look into that more! And yes, creation and nature isn’t always the easiest to contend with, but I think the call to live awake is clear there. Hope to connect IRL soon!

  6. What a beautiful piece you have written here, Heidi. The outdoors, and all its elements, is healing to me in times of grief and stress. And nature is an organic way to experience God’s majesty and beauty; nothing humankind makes will ever be its equal.

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