I was listening to a discussion taking place in a business course I attended this year. We were reviewing personal and business goals for the year in regard to family, business, recreation, travel, money, fitness and spirituality. The question being posed to everyone was, “What you do to find your inner peace?” It was a difficult question for most in the room, as going to church was not an option in this post modern crowd. A suggestion was made, “ if you don’t have an answer for this one, maybe a stroll in the park, or time spent in nature may be used.” I wondered how could this be enough? What about the importance of going to church? Some who couldn’t find an answer, responded with a walk in the woods, or time spent at the beach for lack of knowing what other response to give.
I thought about “the walk in the woods,” and how I had spent many endless hours as a child wandering in the 100 acre farm our family owned in Stirling, Ontario near the Trent River. This was where we would go to find peace. We didn’t want to go home to the stress and demands of our busy dairy farm. On the farm, there was never a moment to waste or time to stop and enjoy the surrounding beauty. When my parents would have company over, it was our opportunity to escape… run to the hills with my sisters and cousins. Beyond the hills, we found peace in the beautiful, majestic hardwood vista where one could disappear into the trees. The ground below was neat and tidy, peaceful and cared for. It was as if someone had cleaned up for the arrival of company, like the way my sisters and I cleaned up before our guests arrived. It was like someone was waiting for us, anticipating our visit.
It was in the woods resting with nature as an 8 year old that I first recognized the presence of God. I heard his voice. It was in the little Catholic Church where I first noticed the sunshine streaming through the stained glass window and I felt God’s presence.
Years later it was in Catholic high school my friend Adriano during art class explained his experience with a living God. I felt a peace that I could not explain, a conviction that I could not ignore.
Is it possible that God is waiting for us? That perhaps the untrained person in nature could find God? Perhaps the Awesome, Majestic, Presence of God could be felt and experienced outside of church?
As an artist I have observed that artwork is very revealing, hiding nothing about who the artist is, what is hidden in the depths of their being, their thought patterns, their views, their emotions and convictions. A manifestation of their spirit as it were. At times I can see and understand the thought process that took place in order to create an art piece. There are times that you see the linear, mathematical mind, as in Picasso’s work. Other times free form with no distinguishable structure, as in Monet’s work. Artwork can be read or understood like musical notes, evoking an emotion like sadness or exuberant joy.
Who can argue that God’s artwork is all around us? What excuse is there for not knowing that God truly exists? Nature speaks of God’s “artwork”, His law and promises, written on our hearts waiting to be discovered.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
It is in the moments of losing ourselves in the trees and nature of God’s love that we may find a peace without fear of being judged. In this peace there is a love that gives a person permission to talk about their messiness. The Bible says confession is the path to healing (James 5:16). Only a culture of love will allow for secret sin to come out of the darkness and into the light.
In knowing God we experience a peace that is without words, indescribable peace.
Annemarie Johnson is a trained Decorative Artist, Founder and Creative Director of TROMPE L’OEIL STUDIOS INC. a decorative wall finishing studio.
Annemarie and her husband Kevin have 5 children and live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in the woods where they experience God’s presence.