I love visiting national parks. As unsurpassed beauty proclaims the glory of God, I stand amazed, wondering which way to turn, where to allow my eyes to feast. The unbridled creativity of our Lord is showcased in great detail as the old hymn “This Is My Father’s World” plays in my mind.
Sadly, my human nature follows me everywhere I go, even into the majesty of the mountains. Not long ago I was riding an old school bus through Denali National Park. (Yes, I finally made it to Alaska!) Despite the odds (which aren’t very good) the sun was shining, and Mt. McKinley showed off all day for the group of twenty that boarded “Jeremy’s bus” at eight in the morning. We saw birds and bears, caribou, fox and…hikers. And they wanted a ride.
Here’s how our Denali bus worked. Each passenger purchased a ticket to ride out to Wonder Lake and back, an eleven hour endeavor. All the park buses are “hop on, hop off.” We could ask to be let us off at any time (provided there were no bears within 300 yards), take a hike, and then wait along the road for the next bus to come along.
Since it was a chilly outside, and eleven hours sounded pretty long already, most of the people on our bus planned to stick with Jeremy all day long. Besides, he was a terrific tour guide, and the bus wasn’t very crowded. We enjoyed a couple of delightful hours together, bonding in a friends-on-a-field-trip sort of way.
Then it happened. Jeremy pulled over and six hikers piled in. They didn’t ask us if we wanted to include them. They just climbed in and added themselves to the mix. They were perfectly nice people, and they had every right to get on the bus. But here’s the embarrassing thing: they didn’t belong to our group. For an odd and irrational moment, I didn’t want them there. What in the world? Why would I have such an ungracious thought? I did a spousal check. Steve’s brain was just as mean as mine. We are a selfish lot.
After a hearty self-rebuke, I began to think about all the times that we Christians shut out those we don’t consider part of our group. Then I remembered a fabulous talk by Max Lucado. You can read it here. (Please do!) If you’re in a hurry, drop down to the section entitled “Rocking the Boat.”
This is our Father’s world. We are his ambassadors. May we all be quick to share, to welcome, to include, and may we be oh so slow to ever shut anyone out.