I don’t know if you know this but it is September 17th! That means September is not just beginning but it is 2 days past half over.
In celebration, or lament, after some pastoral visitation on Tuesday I spent a couple hours running in the mountains behind my house. I live up against the Wasatch mountains and it turns out that right up and over the first mountain range is a rather large reservoir with a 15 mile road and trail around it, perfect for the marathon trainee.
To my surprise, as I drove the narrow canyon road to get up to the lake I watched late summer turn to Autumn before my eyes. As I ascended through some low hanging clouds, I watched the foliage turn from green to burnt orange. As I wound along, the sun danced through the high strata clouds, lighting up various parts of the cliff walls and shadowing others. My inner being stirred with the giddiness of Fall.
I parked right outside the canyon and set off on foot. As I strode around the lake, I could not stop gazing at the scenery, a setting that can only be described as majestic: Glass water reflecting orange mountains, sunlight dancing around wild sunflowers, towers of hale bales sticking out of light green fields, soon to be fallow. All this was punctuated by at least 30 different types of birds chirping and flying about.
Since I am training for a marathon I am forcing myself to take fewer stretch breaks during my runs. I try to run for at least a half hour at a time without stopping and have grown more adamant about it.
But as I studied the landscapes around me, I found that nature was beckoning me, if not forcing me to stop and take it all in. I found an overwhelming gratitude that was pouring out of my innermost being insisting that I pause for a more contemplative moment. Eventually my conviction that such beauty is not to be squandered outweighed my conviction to not stop running. Responding to the call of the wondrous nature around me, I stopped in front a brown field that was in front of the blue and black lake that was in front of the orange mountains which it also was reflecting.
I took a deep breath and prepared to drink in this luscious vista, but before I could exhale I found that another type of nature was calling. There was another type of deep pressure in my innermost bowels longing to be relieved and that right soon! Though I was in a rather remote area, there were still no less than 10 houses within sight and an unusually busy highway right behind me. The nearest tree cover was no less than 400 meters away, and even then it was thin.
It is a typical runner’s predicament and when the uninitiated are out of the room we gladly share stories about the places we have left our waste. Still, I always panic when nature calls, my mind fraught with worry as it plays out the various scenarios that either get me shot by one of those libertarian anarchists who frequent the back country or in jail trying to figure out how to explain this to my local congregation, let alone my District Superintendant!
In the end, I started running again no less than 10 seconds after I had stopped. The most beautiful scenery I had experienced all year had been overpowered and outwitted by a very pressing internal need. The desire to appreciate my part in God’s grand creation had been undone by the pressing desires of God’s creation within me. And my search for something beautiful had ended in a desperate search for something as smelly, ugly and profane as a public restroom.
But still, when I find the relief I am looking for in those ugly port-a-potties or inconvenient convenience store pit stops or the even more uncomfortable tall weeds I can’t help but wonder if there just might be a sermon in there somewhere.