In the past people used to curled up with a good book. Now the joy is curling up with your Kindle or iPad. Some people like to log in to video games, while for others it’s a good movie or just the TV. It’s hard to speak of these with joy because so often the content is less than joyful and can even be quite stressful.
I want to give a plug for some time in the sun, to walk the great outdoors. I want to give a plug for something more than your world hemmed in by four walls. I want to encourage people to forget about what you might be missing indoors and to see the adventure that can be experienced outdoors. Go for a walk, take some photos, dash off a sketch, splash some paint on your attempt at a Monet, throw a line in the river or a stone at a tin, check out people’s gardens for ideas for your own, trek along a gorge, kick a football, throw a boomerang, fly a kite or just rumble on the grass.
Where is all this coming from? Have I taken the boot camp challenge and want others to suffer as well? Not at all! I am however wanting to encourage better mental health. We’ve all heard of people “living in a bubble” but I would never have expected this to be a Government imposed bubble. COVID-19 has bubble wrapped communities but it must not bubble wrap the individual to the point where we feel socially isolated, imprisoned to environmental boredom, suffocated by lock down. The COVID pandemic could be the long and winding road that leads to depression’s door. That is why I am encouraging you to open another door and to get outside.
Believe it or not, it was a Baptist who gave this Anglican the challenge. He was born in 1834 and he died aged 57, so he is not a contemporary. His name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon, it seems, was not your average clergyman. He attracted thousands to hear him speak. They would stream in, filling the place with a hum of expectation, and although he’d speak for longer than an hour, his audience would be totally engaged. In my experience, the closest I have come to this is the hum of a church that at the moment is not allowed to sing. Spurgeon’s life was all about the creating, saving Jesus Christ, who said “I have come that you may life and have it more abundantly”. What some find surprising about Spurgeon is that behind the joy he found in Jesus Christ was a man who suffered melancholy. Melancholy is an old word that speaks of depression. Personally, I am not surprised that any person, Christian or not, can suffer times of melancholy and sometimes prolonged seasons of it. Depression is not simple and like death, it is no respecter of persons.
Spurgeon wrote many books, but the one that I’d like to turn to in this article is “Lectures to My Students”. At a time of personal struggle, a good friend suggested that I read a particular chapter. It was in that chapter that Spurgeon urged his students to let creation offer its contribution to help us have a clearer head and better health. Spurgeon urged his students to walk in the fresh air, to feel the wind on their faces and the rain on their heads. It’s no surprise to me that many environmentalists tout the power of the environment to foster wellbeing. Of course not all environmentalists will give honour to the God who created it for this purposes, for our enjoyment.
It’s Spring and I can’t think of a more positive season to visit and view the creative genius of God’s gallery. Every vista is His artwork, every object His sculpture, every colour is from His pallet and every brush stroke His signature. To look upon it all is one thing but to see through it or beyond it reveals the artist who shares it all with us at no cost in His gallery of grace.
Like the changing light on Monet’s haystacks, the seasons of God’s creation capture the changing light of human experience. Every changing season reveals the cycle of life. The winter of the past comes with the new growth and new opportunities of Spring. To see the green after years of drought may well offer a lesson to us all that even beyond the worst of times there is hope for a fresh start. I wonder if that’s why Spurgeon suggested we get out and feel the breeze and taste the rain. I know he wanted us to consider the grace of God, the healing of His care and the hope of love He offers.
Well, I am sitting at my desk in the four walled office space of my home looking at a screen writing on the blessings of God’s good creation. Enough! I am off to get my dose of environmental grace, to breath it deeply and encourage my soul, replenish my joy and thank our God for His love. As I go, I will not just indulge in selfish appreciation but I will also pray that the Divine artist of all that is good will offer you a clearer mind and a healthy wellbeing. A close look at Jesus Christ makes clear that God loves us and is good for us!Rick Lewers