Joseph “Johny” Abraham and Geoff Merz share how the beauty of nature brings them closer to God, as well as their motivation and experience of organising an out-of-theordinary backpacking retreat.

“A warm body doesn’t mean I’m alive… I want to thrive, not just survive” – Jon Foreman, Thrive

Beginning

I (Joseph) have always loved going into the woods – although for much of my life, I have opted for air conditioning, being on the internet and staying indoors, safe from the creepy-crawlies outside my door. I’m not the bravest guy in the world, and what that means is I’ve actually been very afraid for much of my life. I feel safer inside, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, watching YouTube videos, and curling up on the couch. It’s not exciting, but it’s easy.

Oftentimes too, our culture pressures us to live in a perpetual pursuit of tomorrow – not that healthy pragmatism and preparation which is so necessary to living a balanced life, but rather an unending enslavement to the worldly view of success. In the Our Father, we ask the Lord to “give us this day our daily bread”, and it is certainly intentional that it does not say “give us this bread tomorrow too”. The Lord follows up on this prayer in Matthew by saying, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” (6:25) This is a God of the present who has called us to life, and life in its abundance! Surely then, we have been made to thrive. Out in the wilderness, you have to be and stay in the present.

The first time I went backpacking, I began to see the world a little differently. I began to realise how much time I wasted daily doing things that were out of touch with my own desires, how much of my time was spent killing time. To abandon desire is often to embrace sinfulness, to live in fear, and to stifle the longings of our heart with cheap indulgent substitutes. In contrast, I found that even a moment in the mountains, an hour on the trail, or a conversation in a tent could rejuvenate, heal, and awaken my heart in ways that no couch could compete with. I cannot pretend that I don’t still often find myself wasting time in the most comfortable, convenient ways available, but I see now that true joy is around the corner for pursuing my deepest desires, and that has permanently changed the way I perceive the world.

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