As part of The Mission Society’s recent Americas Regional Gathering in San Jose, we visited a Costa Rica rainforest, riding through the lush greenery in gondolas that could seat up to seven people. I eyed my gondola a bit warily though after realizing we would be covering a distance of 2 1/2 miles all while hanging from a single cable high above the ground. Seriously? The dense tropical foliage is beautiful, but I knew it wouldn’t exactly break my fall from 95 meters up!
Spurred on by the peer pressure of the entire group of 90+, valiant children included, I boarded the tram of death. Our guide, Carlos, assured me were safe and sure enough, the leisurely pace of about 2 kilometers per hour soon lulled me into a (apparently not false) sense of security. So I sat back and began to enjoy the view. Following are three lessons I learned during my death-defying meandering through the rainforest and through five days of life-giving worship, teaching, preaching, study, and community with fellow servants of the Kingdom.
First, I need to lift up my eyes to regain perspective. We began our tour in the cool, darker environment of the understory, where plants grow larger leaves in hopes of catching some of the precious little sunlight that penetrates the canopy. As we drifted through, I kept my eyes focused on what was directly beside or beneath our gondola. There was so much to see! But, as we almost imperceptibly ascended, I was suddenly bathed in sunlight as our gondola rose above the dense green canopy. The panoramic view from high above the treetops was stunning! I lifted my eyes to see the distant mountains, the brilliant blue sky, the scattered clouds, and the glorious sun, the light that those broad-leafed plants so far below aspired to find.
Many times during our days together I was reminded of how much I need that panoramic perspective in my life. Though teaching on the necessity of Sabbath renewal to preaching that challenged reflection on the state of my soul, I was inspired to take my focus off the immediate, to lift my heart in worship, and to aspire to rise to the stunning panorama of God’s perspective on life, ministry and the world in which I live.
Second, relationships between two organisms benefit the whole. It was amazing to see how interconnected the life in the rainforest appeared. Flowering plants and mosses hung, sometimes precariously, from tall thick trees. Our guide assured us they were not parasites, as they didn’t actively harm the host plant. To me they were like ornaments adorning the trees, much like a Christmas tree, but lit by nature and not artificial lights. In the many different and biologically diverse ecosystems of the rainforest, it was easy to see how relationships between two organisms could affect the whole. Whether those relationships are symbiotic, parasitic, mutual or competitive, they affect the whole.
Such is true with the Body of Christ. As we studied together the book of Ephesians, and saw the absolute importance of growth, both individual and communal, I was reminded of how each of us plays a part in the Body. Sometimes it’s easier to think of the “Body” as a huge complex organism and believe that I, by myself, cannot really affect it much. But when I begin to examine my personal relationships with other members of the Body, the truth comes home.
Third, I cannot multitask intimacy with God. That actually was a quote from Frank Decker, TMS Vice President for Training and Developmenet. He referred to the rush of devotional times, praying in the car, listening to praise music while exercising, the Bible on audio while ironing. To find true intimacy and pursue a vital relationship with Jesus, I need to turn all my attention on to Him. Teaching on Sabbath renewal and the importance of cultivating space and time to know God also challenged me.
Back to the rainforest analogy, if I had been multitasking…checking email and texts, editing photos, listening to music, even busily chatting with my husband, how much would I have missed? To sit quietly and take it all in was all I needed. That’s what I need with Jesus. To quiet myself, to set aside distractions, to focus my attention on Him. Funny how I can easily set aside and hour and a half to enjoy a rainforest but find it hard to set aside half an hour to enjoy my Savior…
So those are my lessons from the rainforest. Those are my lessons from a time of formation in community with others whose greatest desire to is follow God’s call, to obey His voice, and to serve for His glory. Risking life and limb in a suspended gondola was worth it!