I really hate going to nature parks. They’re just so boring. I absolutely love nature and the outdoors. My dream day is me, out in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful spring day hundreds of miles away from civilization with no cell phone, GPS, light or noise pollution, sound of airplanes, buses, trains, cars, or blaring sirens. To gaze up at the clear night sky where the only music that plays in my ear is the sound of the wildlife howling into the darkness that surrounds it. To me, that’s planet Earth at her finest. But so-called “nature parks” are, as I describe them, artificially natural. They have the appearance of being natural and “preserved,” but once you get a closer look you see that things aren’t as they appear.
I went to this place here in Gainesville called Devil’s Millhopper. It’s a giant sinkhole that (according to science) is thousands of years old. Essentially, it’s a giant hole in the middle of some woods that has hundreds of tiny streams that constantly flow to the bottom of the sinkhole and the water sinks deep below ground. It’s amazingly peaceful with the steady sound of water falling 129 ft. to the bottom, gently flowing over rocks and cliffs. It’s like a mini-rainforest inside the hole. It rarely dries up. Even during dry summers it remains full of lush plant life.
So Devil’s Millhopper is great. But going there is quite irritating for me. They have stairs that descend to the bottom of the pit, fences to keep you from falling, trails to keep you from getting lost, and boundaries to keep you from getting hurt. Yawn. As I was taking the long descent down the stairs to the bottom of the sinkhole, I looked to my left and saw what appeared to be a much more interesting way to go. It had giant, moss-covered rocks and risky looking slopes. It didn’t look like anything a good pair of boots and an adventurous heart couldn’t easily tackle with a little sweat and hard work. It seemed like that was how I was meant to experience this wonderful place. Not the safe, boring set of stairs that carried me safely to the bottom. After that I took the “nature trail” that looped around the top rim of the sinkhole. It was a carved out dirt trail with a fence on the side closest to the edge of the sinkhole. Many times I was tempted to hop the fence and take the more adventurous route. That is, until the signs next to the trails would talk me out of it. Also, to the left was woods that looked quite enticing too.
I kept repeating to myself, “I hate nature parks!” I noticed that all you can really do in a nature park is see nature, you can’t really experience nature in them. Yes, you can smell and hear it around you, but what about the dangerous side of the natural world? What about the risk? The only laws and boundaries in nature are gravity and time. All the rest is left up for experience and chance. You see, nature parks take out all the real beauty and uniqueness of nature. There are stairs instead of an adventurous descent down a rocky slope. Carved trails instead of the exploration of the unknown. Gates and boundaries instead of mystery and discovery. Rules for safety instead of danger and risk. It’s all together artificial and not living up to its fullest.
This reminds me of the Body of Christ, the Church. When she is free to move and function freely, the adventure can be quite risky and even dangerous. There are no fences, boundaries, rules, or carved trails. It’s all about discovery and adventure. It has a mark of “what’s going to happen next?” mentality. It requires a pair of boots and a willingness to take the more dangerous route instead of stairs. We all have an exploring side of us, especially if we’re Christians. Jesus and His second half, the Body, are the definition and fulfillment of adventure and exploration. But we’ve gotta be willing to take that leap over the fence of safety, passed that boundary of “protection,” and dare to explore the unexplored. See the unseen. Taste the untasted. So come to Him and explore the riches of His land, the land of Canaan.