by Eric Shaffer
In the midst of all the current chaos, the beauty and majesty of God’s creation continues to flourish all around us. It is steadfast. It endures. It overcomes.
Several weeks ago, I spent a few days backpacking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. In the summer of 2016, wildfires swept through the area and burned nearly 18,000 acres of forest. One afternoon, we hiked up to a 4700′ summit to see the Chimney Tops. This was the location of the largest wildfire that burned 10,000 acres. The final stretch of the trail was still closed, but that did not stop my friends and I from taking in breathtaking scenery and coming to terms with why this region is named the Smoky Mountains.
I also tried to envision myself at that exact spot three years earlier after the fires swept through. What did the scene look like? What emotions and thoughts came through the community? I imagined feeling very similar to how many are viewing the global pandemic we are facing at this very moment: uncertainty, helplessness, hopelessness.
I closed my eyes, then looked at the landscape around me once again–with a new perspective. This time, I looked at the fruits that have come from the community of creation in the process of healing. I gazed upon vast beauty and wonder. The mountains, firm like the love of God, were still there: unmoved. The flora, although wiped away, had returned. Birds sang songs of praise. Rivers continued to flow. It brought me back to Psalm 104:8-13. Which ends with “The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.” I felt satisfied and restored.
This gave me tremendous hope, not just for the continued restoration of the Smokies, but hope for the world today. During these times of trials and tribulation, I believe we can all learn something from nature, and in turn, our Creator.
Eric Shaffer works at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, where he recruits high school students for Goshen College’s sustainability majors and graduates for the Master of Arts in Environmental Education. His youth as a Boy Scout gave him a lasting love of both the environment and education.