Why we need to be outdoors

As I type, the windows of my office are open. There is a slight breeze coming through, and I can pick out about 4 or 5 calls from song birds around the office. Nearly all the trees have begun budding, and though the sky is a little overcast, it is bright enough to cast shadows. In the air, there is the smell of cut grass and spring flowers that my nose picks out now and then. It sounds pretty romantic, huh? This idea that even while I’m doing my work, I’m connected to what’s outside of my office. When you hear descriptions of activity like this outside, whether it’s involving blogging or picnicking it generally sounds nice. On a warm Spring Day, we talk about how much we’d rather be outside than in the office. It sounds good.

But, for many people, outside is just a transition area from one building to another. You go outside to get in your car, get out of your car, and go in for work, school, and errands. We may go outside to do yard work or fire up the grill. On the nicest days of the year, we may sit out on our porch or patio and enjoy a nice sunset with friends. We may go for a jog around the neighborhood. But, ask yourself honestly, “how much time have I spent outside this week, compared to inside?” “Is there anytime you have been outside this week, when not just in transit from one place to another?”

Our rooms and buildings so often seem more comfortable to us, because we have so much more say-so in how they are constructed. This afternoon, when the temperature sneaks above 80, we will close our windows and turn on the air conditioner, leaving the breeze and sounds of birds outside, so that we can have an exact, predetermined temperature that suits our tastes better. We can adjust the lighting to exactly what we need. We can flip open a laptop and read about anything we want, browse pictures of friends and loved ones, and play games that only require slight movement of the fingers and eyes. We can decorate with whatever colors we want, and we can avoid interaction with most things living by simply closing the door. We can play whatever sounds we want, making up a virtual soundtrack to our lives, minute by minute. We can also be incredibly efficient if our minds do not get distracted by all these distractions we decorate our rooms with. The room seems, logically, like the obvious place to spend all your time.

So, it makes perfect sense that we spend so much of our time indoors. There are many who just don’t feel that the outdoors is “their thing.” If you like to go camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, or mountain climbing, you are described as outdoorsy. For those who don’t participate in those activities, the outdoors could seem pretty useless. On top of that, our time outside typically is limited to associations with leisurely, “trivial” activities. You go outside to play, right? All the important stuff, goes on inside closed doors.

From a spiritual perspective, it’s just sad to me that we don’t spend as much time outside (I am guilty of this too). There are so many things I find in my time outdoors that help me grow spiritually. The easy one, is you feel a connection to God through Creation. When you see the beauty in the outdoors, it makes you think of God, and that is good. We so often stop there and think that’s the only spiritual possibilities in Nature. Let me also throw out, though, that the outdoors change the way we live. It is so big and huge compared to our buildings and rooms, and there are so many things going on. Life is happening all around, even in the most urban area. Processes are going on around you that you cannot control or even understand. Which really sounds more like our relationship to God: being in a walled up, finite space where we have most of the control over the conditions, decoration, and activities or an infinite space with things happening all the time in which we function as a small piece in a much larger, grander thing?

Going outside, opens up your senses, your thoughts, and yes, sometimes your allergies. But, just about every time I go outside, I see something I did expect. I hear or learn something I was not seeking to learn. It is an environment much more conducive to an openness to what God might be trying to speak. In my room or office, I control the agenda almost completely. To encounter God, I must be incredibly focused. When I’m outside, God tends to sneak out of the unexpected places much more frequently. So, get out–whether you live a few miles from Eva, Tennessee or downtown Memphis. Whether you go out during your lunch hour or you do your daily reading out on your porch. It is important, in our lives, to challenge ourselves and not always be completely comfortable. It is easier to find challenges in the great outdoors. God is waiting to tell you more things than you can count. Don’t wait. Get out there.

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