“I didn’t know we were going to do all of this. They said a hike, I didn’t really read the thing…I want to go home.”
Only a few miles into day one of a six day Mt. Baker Ascent adventure for a group of teens from the Tacoma Rescue Mission, one participant had reached his limit. Despite the warm afternoon sun, breathtaking scenery, and encouragement from Peak 7 guides, DJ appeared as immovable as the immense granite ridges surrounding him. However, over those six days, God used a meaningful encounter with creation to reveal Himself to that young man as only the Creator can.
To accomplish His will, God purposefully intertwined creation into the lives of His people throughout the Bible, and He continues to do so today.
DJ’s story highlights a foundational belief that drives everything we do at Peak 7 Adventures: to accomplish His will, God purposefully intertwined creation into the lives of His people throughout the Bible, and He continues to do so today. Therefore, we boldly seek to commune with and be guided by our Father through the majesty of His created world.
Encountering God in Creation: A Biblical Precedent
For Christmas this year I bought my nephew a beautifully illustrated children’s Bible. As I flipped through the pages in the ample time I waited in line to purchase it, the bright pictures of mountains, lakes, stars, rainbows, deserts, and fire made clear just how significantly God has related to His people through His handiwork. Both the Old and New Testaments contain vivid stories in which God uses creation to interact with His people in two primary ways: to deepen our intimacy with Him and reveal His purposes to us.
We were created to love and fellowship with our God and steward His creation. This world has been an essential, inextricable part of our relationship to our Father since the very beginning. Even after the corruptive power of sin distorted our relationship to everything, God continues to commune with His people through nature.
The first example of God relating to us through nature is the creation narrative. God establishes the foundations of the earth – light, water, sky, dry ground – then adorns it with beauty and complexity in the form of plants, animals, diverse geography, and eventually humans. The culmination of this ‘very good’ work and God’s grand design for humanity is displayed as Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden ‘to work it and take care of it.’ (Genesis 2:15) That’s it! We were created to love and fellowship with our God and steward His creation. This world has been an essential, inextricable part of our relationship to our Father since the very beginning. Even after the corruptive power of sin distorted our relationship to everything, God continues to commune with His people through nature.
Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, God displays His love and guidance through numerous works of creation. God delivers the Israelites from Egypt through plagues of animals and weather, pillars of cloud and fire, and parting an immense sea (picture crossing Puget Sound on dry ground). On Mt. Sinai, the Lord appears to Moses in natural forms – clouds, darkness, fire – to provide guidance through the Ten Commandments which He promised will ensure the Israelites remain His ‘treasured possession.’ (Exodus 19:5). Fleeing persecution, Elijah retreats alone to Horeb, the mountain of God, begging to die. Instead, after terrifying displays of nature, God speaks to Elijah through a gentle whisper, providing him strength and specific direction for the leadership of Israel (1 Kings 19). Finally, God uses a storm on the open seas and a massive fish to redirect a rebellious Jonah to Ninevah, converting and saving the city. Through many similar stories, it is clear that in these expressions of His immense love, the author of creation assumed the form of His work so that His chosen people might know and follow Him.
Creation continued to play a significant role throughout the ministry of Jesus. In his book Christian Outdoor Leadership, Dr. Ashley Denton explains the cycle of Jesus’ ministry as one of “retreating to the wilderness to be with God, then engaging civilization with the message and the ministry of the gospel.” (70) Not only can this rhythm be beneficial for our own lives, but these times of retreat provided Jesus with moments of particular intimacy and guidance from his Father. Many of the highlights of Jesus’ ministry took place in the wilderness, including the transfiguration (Matthew 17), his temptation by the devil (Matthew 4), appointing the Apostles (Mark 3), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28). The bond between Father and Son possessed a measure of intimacy and faith which our finite minds cannot fathom. However, understanding that God related to His Son through His created world gives us confidence that God will make His love and direction known to us as well through encounters with creation. If you feel led by the Spirit to fellowship with God in the mountains, go, and be encouraged that Jesus felt that very same yearning in his soul.
Peak 7 Adventures
Our mission at Peak 7 Adventures is to facilitate safe, first-rate outdoor adventure experiences through which youth, primarily from underprivileged backgrounds, are spiritually and physically challenged. Every year through our whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and mountaineering trips, we introduce thousands of young people not only to the outdoors, but to the hope of a brighter future. When daunting physical challenges are undertaken in a supportive, trustworthy environment, young people begin questioning their perceived abilities. By the time fears of rapids, lack of trust in ropes, or tired legs have set in, emotional and spiritual barriers have been broken down and their hearts are open to hearing a greater message of truth and love.
Whatever the impact of these adventures, the message of a loving God who created them with inherent value and purpose permeates everything we teach our participants.
Some learn teamwork and trust, others develop a work ethic through perseverance, and some realize in themselves a greater potential. Whatever the impact of these adventures, the message of a loving God who created them with inherent value and purpose permeates everything we teach our participants. Even more, our guides exemplify the love of Christ. For a stranger to express genuine love and interest is a radical idea for most marginalized youth who are more accustomed to being manipulated, abused, or ignored. We show them love and introduce them to their infinite Creator who is love, who promises never to leave nor forsake them, with whom all things are possible, and who can be seen and experienced in the beauty around them. It is a truly life changing encounter.
One of my favorite testimonials from a young participant is written to the supporters who funded his adventure: “Thank you for making this trip possible. It taught me a lot about God and his mercy. This trip pushed me past my limits. Thank you for preparing me for life and problems I can conquer. You are blessed by God!”
A Final Thought: You Don’t have to be David Livingstone
As inhabitants of Cascadia, we are blessed to be able to experience God through nearly any outdoor activity we choose. However, I want to offer an encouragement to readers who may not feel a natural compulsion to adventure in the outdoors.
Here are two thoughts. First, we serve a deeply personal yet infinite God who is unencumbered by our temporal preferences or physical limitations. Second, though humanity tends to exalt mountain tops, raging rivers, and vast expanses in the hierarchy of creation, the Lord views them all equally (Matthew 10:29). Therefore, God is able to meet and accomplish His will even in creation’s most seemingly benign settings. Zacchaeus meets Jesus from a sycamore tree and earns salvation for his household, Jesus appears to and converts Saul while he’s simply strolling down a country road, and Jesus himself had one of his most intimate moments of communion with God in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of his betrayal. My hope is for you to be encouraged by the knowledge that the Lord can draw you closer to Him and reveal His purposes to you through creation anywhere, at any time, whether on a remote mountain peak a hundred miles in the backcountry or sitting on your back patio on a quiet Tuesday night, gazing up at the stars.
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.” Psalm 96: 11-13