This summer, as part of a Clergy Renewal Grant, my family and I traveled out west to experience some of our country’s most amazing national parks. We visited 12 parks in 28 days. It was a whirlwind of a trip that created memories for a lifetime.
The purpose of this trip, and the entire 3.5-month renewal leave, was to step away from the busyness of ministry and life to experience, engage and learn from God’s creation in a variety of ways. I remain humbled and honored to have had this precious time with my family to refresh and renew.
I’ve been back to work for six weeks now, and several people have asked what I took away from this magnificent experience.
Creation is a great illustration for life, but even more so it tends to be an extension of life, filled with eternal lessons. We encountered the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the beauty of Crater Lake, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, and more. We lost count of the wildlife; from bison to bear to moose, we stared in wonder.
Throughout it all two lessons rise to the top: Creation is filled with examples of patience and balance, and our lives should be, too.
Most things in national parks took hundreds of years to be created. The Giant Sequoias began growing in California as Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem. This, and several examples like it, didn’t happened overnight, and yet every year thousands of people flock to catch a glimpse of them.
No matter how we are formed in any given season, whether it be as violent as rushing waters or as peaceful as snow melting, we must remember that God is creating within us something extraordinary. We must be patient as this work takes time to come to fruition, but there will come a day when we look at life and the journey we’ve traveled in awe of God’s marvelous work.
As we walk this road, we also must embrace the similar roads others are traveling.
And so enters the importance of balance. The ecosystems within the national parks require a fragile balance to exist. Nature is a beautiful thing to behold, but being able to see the balance of how it exists within itself goes beyond beauty. This balance of plants, animals and more sustains life and allows for healing and redemption.
To achieve this God-desired balance in our lives, we must be willing to look from the largest possible perspective. Balance becomes this awareness of how everything works together, and of our respective role within that system. It is an honor and respect of the Creator and the creation, and a willingness to work together.
There were several takeaways from my experiences out West, but patience and balance continue to remain at the forefront of my thoughts. What do they mean to you? Would your life improve if you had more patience and balance? How can you begin moving toward the life God desires for you?
Ethan Maple of New Palestine is lead pastor of the Movie Theater Church that meets at Washington Square Mall. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.