The Restorative Power in a Change of Scenery
In the wake of Earth Day, celebrated internationally on the 22nd of April, I found it ideal and appropriate to discuss and reflect upon the healing and restorative power in disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, and exchanging the usual work life environment for that of God’s natural and beautiful creation. It's no secret that our modern lives can be stressful, and often we forget to slow down and appreciate the world God has placed us in. By taking a break from our daily routines and spending time in nature, we can find a sense of peace and balance that is otherwise difficult to achieve in our hectic lives.
A simple change of scenery has more restorative power than we may initially realize. This change of scenery could be something as small as stepping away from the computer screen and taking a much needed walk, or it could be as extreme as jumping on a plane and flying across the ocean to a different country. No matter what the scale, allowing ourselves to step out of our routine and experience something new can be incredibly beneficial in ways we may not even realize.
For myself, the latter change of scenery was in order. I bid my farewells to my home country of New Zealand, jumped on a plane, and settled myself in for a 12 hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to the slightly larger United States of America. Prior to coming to the USA, I had been finding myself in a bit of a slump. Outwardly, I was doing incredible! I was working five jobs, religiously attending the gym, eating four square meals a day, all while somehow managing to maintain a decent social life. However, there was one thing severely lacking: my relationship with God. Even though I was living in (arguably) one of, if not the most beautiful place on earth, I certainly took it for granted. Even in a country that runs at a drastically slower pace than that of the US, I had not taken any time to slow down, and in turn, was neglecting my relationship with God. Moving temporarily to the US would, unknowingly to me, restore and heal this area of my life that was severely running amiss.
The first thing that I noticed about Los Angeles, CA, was that it ran non-stop. Everyday there is something to do, and it is apparent that hustle culture is alive and well here. My first week absolutely drained me, as I had done and seen so much, but, according to my new friends here, I had barely scratched the surface. How overwhelming for a small-town New Zealand resident! Even having changed my scenery, I still had not taken any time to slow down.
As a part of my stay here, I had the opportunity to attend a women's retreat known as “Hearts of Beauty”, described on their website as, “A Transformative 4-Day Experience to Restore Your Feminine Heart”. Note the word “restore”. Restoration. It’s what I needed. This retreat would provide me with the opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and focus on my relationship with God. At first, I was intimidated by this retreat. It was located up in the mountains, there would be no cell service, and I would be completely disconnected from the outside world. That’s a scary thought for someone who would otherwise be attached to their phone and would constantly be concerned and connected to the worries and whims of the world. However, God wanted me on this retreat, and who am I to argue with God’s divine intervention?
One of the most beautiful takeaways from this retreat for me, were the many quiet times we had after each session. It was here that I was able to come to a complete stand-still. No phone, no technology, no hustle and bustle, only God and me. With no distractions, I was able to slow down and connect with God on a profound level. During one of these sessions, God spoke to me with a single word:
Still. Stillness. This word brought me to the opening line in Psalm 46:10, which reads, “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;...’” How perfect, that in the very first quiet time of many to come, God brought to my attention the beauty and serenity in simply being still and knowing that HE is GOD. This would go on to sit with me for every quiet session that followed. I remember finding the most beautiful spot in the forest. The ground was bouncy and soft, the sun was shining, the breeze was warm and comforting, the sky was blue, the trees creaked quietly, and the birds were singing. It was in one of these quiet moments that I recalled the quote, “Look up through nature to nature’s God.” The idea that nature reflects God's wisdom, power, and goodness resonated with me deeply. By observing the natural world, we can appreciate the beauty and handiwork of God, and in turn, find restoration.
Through changing my scenery, I was able to restore, heal, and bridge the gap between myself and God. Sometimes it takes really slowing down, disconnecting and I mean REALLY disconnecting from the day-to-day busyness of life, and changing our scenery to restore and bridge the gap between ourselves and our almighty Creator. I want to encourage you to find a moment of stillness, disconnect from all distractions, and spend time with God so you too may find the restoration and healing that comes only from Him who loves you. Finally, I want to leave you with this passage to reflect on from Psalm 23:1-3: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”