Why do couples go on dates? Usually, it’s to spend quality time together and get to know more about the other person. Even though my wife and I have known each other for 17 years (almost 16 years married), we still do not fully know each other. After all this time, we are still learning about each other as intricate, deep people.
One thing we love to do together is to get outside in nature. We have a little area with some benches next to a large river where we like to sit together in the warm Florida breeze or take a stroll along the riverbank.
It is peaceful and helps us disconnect from all of the stuff going on in life and focus on each other.
I also like to connect with the Lord through nature and being outdoors. Recently, I took a walk in the woods with a couple of brothers that turned into a really rich time with the Lord.
Perhaps this story will inspire you to unplug from the world and technology for a bit and just focus on Christ. I honestly believe there is no better thing you can do.
“Everyone’s filling me up with noise, I don’t know what they’re talking about. You see all I need’s a whisper, in a world that only shouts.”
~ Whisper by Passenger
I was meeting with a couple of other brothers one morning to spend some time with the Lord together. (By the way, you don’t have to spend time with Jesus alone. You can easily involve others and go on a group date.) I had thought about taking a walk since it was a cool Florida morning, but I was wearing flip flops and didn’t want to walk very far so I didn’t say anything at first. However, another brother suggested that we take a walk together, and I shared that I had the same thought but hesitated, so we ventured out to find a local trail he had seen from the road.
After a short walk to the trailhead, we ventured off road, instantly transported into a lush forest, away from the busy world.
It’s amazing how quickly a natural setting allows me to disconnect from the world an connect to Christ. For me, the more natural the setting, the more clearly His signal comes through.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10
As we walked, one brother suggested that we spread out a bit and spend some time alone listening to Christ, and then come back together. One brother went further up the trail. The other brother stopped and stood in a patch of sunlight beaming through the leafy green canopy.
I turned to a side path and followed it. However, as I followed it, I realized that the path was taking me in a direction away from the other brothers. I had looked and thought that the trail turned one way, but it turned in a different direction once I walked it out. So I backtracked to the original path.
I had felt a nudge from the Lord to take off my flip flops and walk barefoot, but at first I convinced myself that it was too wet and muddy. But that nudge wouldn’t go away so I caved in and began walking barefoot on the path of the forest floor, thickly covered in discarded leaves. The damp leaves were cool on my feet and relaxing to walk on. Good idea, Jesus.
As I passed the brother soaking in the Son-light, I began to quietly sing a song to the Lord. As I looked around, I saw bright green everywhere. The forest was thick and teeming with life!
As the three of us came together at a fork in the trail, we carried on down the path together. One of us would start to quietly sing a song and the other two would join in. We sang simple songs from memory to the Lord. We prayed quietly and called out His name or said something to praise Him.
As our paces changed, we rotated through leading our single file line, though there was no striving to be in front of anyone. We were all yielded to Jesus and simply following His lead as he expressed Himself through us.
After some time singing, we shared some things with each other that we were seeing about the Lord in each of our lives.
And then we came back to the beginning of the trail, emerged from the forest, and reentered our busy world. It was the same world we took a brief reprieve from, but our Spirits were renewed.
As we walked away from the trailhead, we discussed a few things about our experience.
First, it was clearly a rich time of simply spending time with Jesus, being in His presence, and walking in an awareness of Him. I think this is the most basic idea of going on a date. Recommendation: Set some time aside to remove distractions and focus on being present with Jesus.
Second, we didn’t have to force anything to happen. The idea to take a walk and spend time with the Lord was from His prompting; it came about naturally as we were open to listening to Him. And it seemed like He was waiting to meet with us on that path. Recommendation: Don’t put an expectation on your time with Jesus. This time isn’t about achieving anything, it’s about being present and attentive to each other.
Third, we could never recreate that experience. It was in the Lord’s hands. We could all three return to that path at a later time and follow the same plan, and find no life in it. Divine life always works this way. There is no set formula. Efforts to define and bound how the Lord works are futile. There are patterns, of course, but there is no set rule that says if you do X, then Y will always happen. Divine life cannot be defined by a method. Recommendation: Give yourself room to spontaneously follow His leading and be prepared to be surprised. Don’t try to recreate past experiences, but develop a sensitivity to His leading in your Spirit.
As an example, Shea shared on Tuesday about her own walk in the woods with the Lord. It was a different but similar experience, and Jesus was with her in a special way.
Fourth, in relaying this experience to others, our message is not, “Come walk this path just the way we did and you will experience the Lord.” Our message is, “Be open to the Lord calling you to be with Him and follow wherever He leads.” Again, the Lord wants to share His life, not a method. Recommendation: Focus more on sharing your experience of Christ, and less on sharing a rigid method of accessing Christ. This leads people towards a Person, not a method.
Fifth, this experience was a beautiful picture of organic church life. Following the Lord, listening to Him, loving Him, letting His life flow, not being in any competition with each other or grasping for any position over each other, letting Christ lead through each other as He sees fit, trusting Christ in us and in each other; these are some of the marks of life together in Christ. Recommendation: There is no liturgy for organic church life. Trust Jesus to lead His body.
Sixth, when I started down the side path that went in the wrong direction away from the other brothers, I had no particular leading in one direction or the other. I made the best decision I could based on what I could see from my vantage point. However, as I moved down the path I maintained awareness of where I was heading. As it become more and more obvious that this was not the direction I needed to go, I simply turned around and returned to the path the brothers were walking. Recommendation: Don’t be afraid to walk in a new direction with the Lord, but remain aware of where you are heading. Is it bringing more unity with Christ and the body, or causing division? This will often keep you walking deeper into the Lord together, and walking together in unity is of utmost importance.
If you can tune out the noise of the world and listen to the Spirit’s whisper in you, you can experience a wonderful date with Jesus.
Questions for discussion:
~ How have you experienced the Lord in nature?
~ Do you have an experience with Jesus you’d like to share?
~ What other date ideas do you have?