But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of mankind.
- Job 12:7-10
We’ve spent that last three months traveling the United States as a family. It’s been a complete gift to see the different States, micro-cultures, and people. What we’ve learned, how it has changed us, will be bubbling up for some time to come, I’m sure.
One thing that has been made absolutely certain to me is the power of the outdoors to cause wonder. Seeing your “I’m-not-impressed-with-much” teen go bananas for every new vista in the Grand Tetons is so wonderful. Especially as that reaction arrived close on the heels of a lot of car-induced screen time.
And, the fun didn’t stop there. We learned from the land, the streams that we crossed (or fell in), the geysers, sand dunes, red woods, mammoths, caves, climbs and more.
Do you want to open up your son’s eyes to what is around them? You’ve got to put them in a situation that is outside in a way that is fun, exciting, and memorable. And, for many of us, it’s only a few hours away.
The National Park System, combined with the State parks, offer so much. Just think about this: the US started setting aside land for all of its citizens to enjoy. And, most of our States followed suit and created their own unique parks and refuges. This is a complete gift and one we should not squander.
The World His Church
Dean Williams was one of my Religious Studies professors in college. His Christian Vision in Literature was one of the more memorable classes because he (and my much smarter classmates) finally explained the writings of Dostoevsky, Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor to me.
One quote that has stuck in my head from his class: “God made the earth to be his church and we His priests.” While I can’t remember which author posited this idea, I do know I love it. And, having been out in the world (and just our little corner of it), I love it even more.
Our family listened to Pastor Chuck preach as we gazed on the Kansas plains. We studied Jesus’s temptations by a lily pond in Yellowstone. We spoke about big questions as we hiked the Grand Canyon. We marveled at His creations from sea to shining sea.
These are lessons and experiences our boys won’t forget.
How To: Some Ideas
Having just spent three months driving over 12,000 miles to learn more about the US, I can’t recommend the experience enough. And, before you think, “There is no way I can do that…. First of all, we work. Secondly, the kids have school. Third, that’s a LOT of time together.”
You don’t have to pull your kids out of school for them to experience something like this. And, you don’t have to quit your job. A little bit of planning combined with some courage and faith will make it work.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Start with a hike in a local State or National park with a picnic. Pick the park, do a bit of research on the hikes available, and pick one that is right for your most inexperienced or least sturdy hiker.
Pack a backpack of favorite snacks and water. (Hide this in the car for the trip there. Otherwise, you’ll have to stop for bathroom breaks more than you want and all the snacks will be gone before the first step is taken!)
2. If you want to do an overnight, don’t feel like you have to campout. Some of our most favorite memories were having the five of us shoe-horned into a cheap hotel room, eating pizza and watching a show together after a good day of hiking.
Staying at a friend’s house, using AirBnB, or camping out all work as well.
3. If you want to do one of the crown jewels (Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.), you do need to plan ahead. And, if you happen to have a current 4th grader, they and their whole family get free admission into any National Park. Thank you, President Obama! Just fill out this paperwork.
4. You need A LOT LESS stuff than you think. And, if your child is bringing tech with them, set some boundaries. We kept it to at most 2 hours in the car and only for pictures on the trails. (And limited at that….)
5. Take a bible or a clipping of your favorite scripture or download a sermon that you really like. When you are at a good rest point, have some water, a snack, and listen and pray. Enjoy God’s church and practice being one of His priests.
Get To It
Go on. Get out there and enjoy it with your growing young men (and women!) There are fewer things more wonderful for a family to enjoy. And, if you want to change their perspective, you've got to get them into a different environment. If you live in the country, spend some time in the city. And vice versa!
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. – John 1:3
God made the world for all of us. Let's introduce our young ones (and ourselves) to it and listen.