The Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite places to go. I use to go there every week with my 35mm camera, loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 and a 24mm f/2.8 lens, ready to capture the infinite beauty of lush, green landscapes, balanced with the serenity of unlimited waterfalls rushing and roaring their way to history. My mind soared with the clouds as they blanketed the hills, filled with thoughts of beauty and poetry. I felt alive.
Flashback to pre-marital counseling. My fiancee and myself were identifying the ways that we worship God in order to better understand one another. My number one way to worship God, nature. Number nine, corporate worship. My fiancee’s number one, corporate worship. Her number nine, nature. Opposites attract.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped going to the Gorge. Life became busy. Priorities crept in. Excuses were made. Joy was misplaced. Depression, exhaustion and the daily daydream of the “what-if’s” was put in joy’s place. I attempted to swap nature and corporate worship as the way I worshiped God and my soul became tired.
My wife would daily encourage me to go to the Gorge. “Please,” she would say, “you know that it fills you up and makes you feel alive, please go.”
More excuses. My soul was becoming a barren landscape hiding behind a mask. Poor choices were made over the course of about three years. I continued ignoring the voice of my wife. Eventually, I ran from God. I started running away from the people that I cared about. I left one church experience for another, and another. I became a spiritual nomad, wandering from place to place.
Eventually, I stopped walking.
I pitched my tent and started eating sand.
My lush paradise turned into a desert.
My thinking went from being a servant to being a master.
I wanted to rule my life, I wanted everything.
I could only run so hard and so far, for so long, until the inevitable happened.
My soul gave way and life came crashing down around me. Emotions of despair and major depression would prevent me from accomplishing much of anything.
One evening I was making dinner when I saw that I missed a call from the pastor of the church that my wife and I used to call home. He wanted to see how I was doing and if I would be interested in working on a video project for the upcoming Easter service.
I called him back. “Tell me about what you are looking for.”
“The service is called Pursuit of Happiness, what happens when life comes crashing down. We want to interview three people about how they were pursuing what they thought was happiness until their lives came crashing down. This crisis would lead them to following what God would have for their lives, the ultimate pursuit of happiness.”
Inside I started to laugh. Laughter is a good sign.
Without a moment of hesitation, “yes, I will do it.”
I had to do it.
It was my story.
It was my life at that very moment.
Since saying yes to that moment, I realize how much of the prodigal son I am. I left a life of purpose in order to squander my meager fortune and now I am crawling home. Back to God and back to a place that I have called home.
I spit out the sand in my mouth, pack up my tent and start walking towards the lush green landscapes of purpose.
Today, after several years, I returned to the Gorge. I chose to hike the Wahkeena Falls trail, wanting to see Fairy Falls and the amazing scenery that has lived in my mind.
I pulled into the parking lot. I’m the only one. No one is there. The whole time, it was just me and God, as I fought my way to Fairy Falls and back (roughly two miles round trip and a 970 ft. gain in elevation).
At one moment, drenched in rain, I started to cry.
The desert of my soul was being rejuvenated by tears from heaven.
It feels good to be going home.