I caught an image of our daughter that brought back so many perfect childhood memories. Tired from swimming in the lake all day and full of roasted hotdogs, she was floating lazily on an inner-tube with her hand held up to the sunlight. As she gazed through illuminated fingers at the clouds, she had an almost supernatural glow of awe and wonder on her face. I remember that feeling – that childlike acceptance that we can know God through creation. I knew that long before I read it as Catholic dogma.
People have asked me if I was an atheist before converting to Catholicism, but the truth is, even in all the years I was so lost, I never stopped believing in God largely because of those memories from childhood, that empirical evidence when I knew and felt the presence of God. Once you experience it, even if you try to forget it, you can never fully deny it.
I also see now that I’ve been afraid to let my children roam much outdoors, and this is not good. Wanting them to be safe, I structured their play time with too little freedom to be outside. (I also feared mountains of laundry.) Glimpsing my daughter has reminded me that it’s absolutely necessary to let children be close to nature. That’s where they are close to God in a way they can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. It’s where precious seeds are planted in their souls.
Most of my adult years I’ve had a disdain for the messy outdoors, often joking that sipping Cabernet and listening to some lively Mozart by the flip-switch gas fireplace with the windows cracked was as close as I wanted to come to camping. Pretty wimpy. Sure, there’s a beauty and glory in the works of man, but nature is the handiwork of God, the first author of beauty. Part of that beauty is the majesty. Outdoors in God’s glory the forces of nature require you to submit to something greater than yourself, demonstrating that you are a necessary part of a unified whole. Sanity demands we learn that, sanctity allows us to know it through the natural light of reason.
“If they admired their power, and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they: For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby” (Wisdom 13:4-5).
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