By Jenna Ebener
I paused at the overlook and took in the view. Beautiful red rock formations were spread around us with just enough openings to frame the distant mountains. The sky was clear and a vivid blue. Patches of snow surrounded us, yet it was 60 degrees on a January day. I inhaled deeply and felt a sense of contentment. I was in my happy place, enjoying the beauty of nature with a friend on one side and my dog on the other side.
I had forgotten how rejuvenating it is for me to be outside on a new hike. While I take my dog on walks every day, we often go on a similar route unaccompanied by anyone else. There is something special about going somewhere new and seeing what wonders of creation God will reveal.
When my friend asked me to go on the hike with her, I almost turned her down. My mind instantly threw out excuses: I was exhausted, I had a lot of things to get done, I did not want to drive an hour and a half; the excuses could go on and on. I finally paused to reflect on what good would come out of this adventure. Even though I had just finished Christmas break, I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted. I thought about how it had been months since I went on a new hike or a hike with a friend.
Going on this hike might grant me the rejuvenation I so desperately sought. Yes, I had things that needed to get done, but I knew God would supply me the time I needed. So, I averted the road blocks the devil was placing in my path and said yes to a wonderful day with God.
The hike reminded me that there are so many ways to spend time with God and it is good to have variety. I pray often and journal daily. I look forward to my daily talks with God as I ponder our day together. I love spending time in the adoration chapel with God each week, reading daily reflections and singing along to praise and worship music. While all of these activities with God are important and fruitful, I realized that, in my tiredness, I had been missing out on some of the ways I see God the strongest — in nature and people.
I had become caught in a rut. In my desire to slow down to try to gain some energy back, I started to get lost in my to-do list rather than seek out activities that would truly rejuvenate me. I kept telling myself the excuse that I would feel better after completing my tasks. However, the list had become endless.
While it is nice to stay at home and be productive, I realized how good it is for me to do things that require more energy. Being an introvert, when I am tired, it requires more mental energy for me to seek out social interactions with others or new experiences. As I was reminded after that hike, the energy I exert is usually not only made up but also doubled or tripled afterwards because I am spending that time with God.
For me, when I am in nature or with good friends, it is so easy to see the love of God and it fills me up. By seeking God in a variety of ways, I become filled up with many versions of God — his listening and reflection from the journaling, his voice during adoration, his hand in creation and his companionship with friends. Each of these experiences create in me a thirst for more. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with disabilities.)