Stripping it down in Nature

I attended a retreat yesterday called “Meeting God in the Rawness of Nature” with Richard Rohr, OFM. The day was held in Lakewood Forest Preserve, Wauconda, IL.  As with any good retreat experience it has taken a little time for the revelations of the day to clarify in my mind.
One of the reflection opportunities was to find a quiet place in the nature preserve and to reflect on the connection we have to what we found.  While I don’t like to let my blindness be a controlling factor in my choices, I decided to keep things simple and not go too deep into the forest. I found ample opportunity to reflect at the place I was drawn to.
After settling myself I stood and absorbed the various textures, sounds, and smells of my surroundings. The reflection instructions asked us to identify a single object to reflect on but nothing called out to me. Instead I found myself reflecting on how the textures, sounds and smells of the nature preserve appeared to be a single monolith of input. As I paid closer attention I was drawn to the fact each element of this environment was a seemingly insignificant part of the whole. Instead of embracing the message of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 I found myself thinking quite the opposite.
I saw the sense of order we often prescribe to our natural environment is just a way to simply put order to a very complex system. I had to question my assumption everything has a ‘purpose” in nature. By making this assumption I can infer I must have a purpose in the universe. I realized I could not assume everything has a purpose nor could I infer I have a purpose in the universe. Instead I realized each plant, bird and insect was simply doing what they do.
This revelation left me struggling to see where my place in the universe resides. It would be comforting to know there was a plan for me and I am merely a passenger on a ride designed by someone else. While the passenger idea has a lot of merit I’ve never really embraced the idea.
My reflection drew me to the conclusion I am an active participant in the mystery of the universe. A much harder, but far more exciting, view of the world. While this revelation is not new or novel, it reinforces my beliefs and experience. I am regularly amazed at the gifts in my life. I am also regularly surprised at how easily the gifts in my life compliment or are supplemented by the environment I’m a part of.
I found myself left with a need to regularly reflect on my own gifts and how I can be gift to others. While this revelation is not significant it is also not something I purposefully do on a regular basis.

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