A fiery red sunset, roaring waves and pounding surf, the humbling scale of mountains rising above me, the wind moving through a stand of tall pine trees. These sights and sounds immediately come to mind when asked to think about where I’ve seen God. The beauty and majesty of God’s creation is an easy place to find God. That’s probably one of the reasons that most of our summer vacations have involved destinations with breathtaking scenery. These are places to find rest, relaxation and a renewed appreciation for the wonder of God.
When my girls were younger we spent several summer vacations with good friends at their cabin near Rocky Mountain National Park. Laura and her husband, Heath, also have two daughters who are close in age to our daughters, so the setting and their company made for an ideal family vacation.
Photography is a hobby of mine, and I used to lug a large format camera, along with several bags of related equipment with us on these trips. This particular camera is a smaller version of the kind of large wooden tripod-mounted cameras that Ansel Adams once used to create his iconic images of our national parks. To get those shots, he would strap his equipment on the back of a pack mule and trek up narrow mountain paths to a remote spot where he could gain the perfect vantage point. The adventure of getting to the “shot” became a traditional activity I shared with my friend Heath during our trips to their cabin.
The challenge for us was to pick a hike to a remote spot in the park and then to get there in time to capture the first light of the rising sun. All of my equipment was packed in a large hiker’s backpack. Unlike Ansel’s trek, we were the only mules. In order to make it by first light, we’d have to wake-up in the middle of the night, make the drive into the park and hike in the dark. We wore headlamps to light the rocky path. On one hike, a full grown wolf ran across our path and the burden of my heavy pack suddenly seemed lessened by the immediate adrenaline rush that this encounter produced. We made it to our destination in record time that morning.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Ty Gomez
Looking for God in these moments, I’ve come to realize that what I remember most was not the awe-inspiring setting, but the company I was keeping. The scenery was beautiful, but my friendship with Heath and the shared experience of our early morning hikes are the memories that still move me these many years later. Finding God in nature is easy and satisfying, but the place that God moves us most is in our relationships.
Seeing God in creation is often easier to conceptualize. Relationships seem fraught with imperfection and uncertainty. Sometimes they produce joy, other times they cause pain. When our relationships sour, it is hard to imagine that God is still present and at work. When people harm each other, we wonder where God went and what God was doing. Yet we are called to believe that God is always present and at work in our relationships with each other and with God. And that’s the reason that loving God and loving each other are the two most important things we are called to do.
Looking for God in all of our relationships, good and bad, is a mindset that can reframe perspectives and bring us closer to God and one another. The paths relationships take are rarely straight, often steep, and sometimes rocky. Many times we must hike together, bearing our burdens on our backs, in darkness and cold. And yes, there are often wolves along the trail. But looking for God in the darkness leads to first light.
Ty Gomez is a NorthPark member, PCUSA ordained elder, and soccer dad. In his spare time, he practices law, plans more unfinished woodworking projects, and cooks for the women in his home.