I had the pleasure of visiting Sequoia National Park with family this past Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the frigid temperatures of around 35 degrees F, it was an enormously enjoyable trip.
We spent a couple of hours walking around the paths of the park, meandering our way towards the barky behemoth that ultimately stole the show, General Sherman. Just to give you some facts on this limbed monstrosity, Sherman is roughly 2200 years old, 275 ft in height, with a base volume of 52,508 cu. ft. It is the largest tree as far as mass in the world. This was the first time that I, a 6 foot 5 male, felt intimidated by a tree. When standing in the shadow of such a natural wonder, you cannot help but be in awe of this amazing creation.
The forest was filled with many sequoias, all much smaller than Sherman but gigantic nonetheless. The thinner but taller redwoods shot up all around us, their peaks pointing heavenward as if to indicate their source of creation. We wandered through this camouflaged wilderness, mouths frequently agape at the beauty that each tree, bit of moss, and pine cone exhibited. I shivered, zipping up my leather jacket and stuffing my hands quickly into my pockets for warmth....realizing at the same time that this was all worth any temporary discomfort from the cold. As my neck strained to look upward and catch a glimpse of the tallest branches of one particular redwood, I began to think about the meticulous and majestic creativity of the Creator. These trees were true tabernacles, temples with spires that reached above many cathedrals. No hand of man had designed this. No stone, brick, or mortar had constructed this infinitely tall tower. Only the hand of God could create something so marvelous.
I stood there for many minutes, feeling completely insignificant. These trees were bigger than me, but God was infinitely bigger than them...yes, even bigger than General Sherman. How could I marvel at these collections of wood without worshiping God?
I began to wish, and wish deeply within my soul, that more of us humans could find these times of going out into the wilderness, seeing the creation of God, and feeling insignificant. We are so "significant" in our own minds, when we are within our own spheres of influence, going to work and coming home, being comfortable. We have our friends and our family who love us and tell us we're great...and I'm not saying that's bad. But it pales in comparison to God and what He has done...and these "staring at trees" moments are what we need to awaken us.
I used to not get nature. The fascination with it, the idea of camping and hiking and exploring unfamiliar terrain. But I think I finally get it now. As more buildings get built, as more cell phone towers go up and more skyscrapers try to imitate the redwood, as we talk on phones and watch the advertisements on TV, as we hear politicians yell at each other over nothing, as we drive our cars and earn our money and buy our things....I realize that creation is our refuge. I hope we never take it for granted.