Sanctuary In The Stream

Douglas McElvy Jr. 

It's the middle of January and I'm standing in one of my favorite western North Carolina trout streams. When you break through the ice on the bank to get into the water you know it's cold. You probably figured that anyway since I mentioned it was mid January, but that’s not the point of the article. As a child my father had me fishing at a young age, according to him I was catching fish on a cane pole before I could talk but one thing I remember was that the emphasis was less on catching fish and more on the beautiful creation and the fellowship while we were enjoying the outdoors. Another major point that he instilled in me was that one of our main callings in life is to be a good steward of everything and every place we set foot and to leave it looking as it was or even better than we found it. I have always remembered that and now as a father I try to instill those same ethics in my son who will be three years old in July. Nothing eats me up like walking through the woods and finding trash someone just left there for potentially all of eternity or until someone who cares comes along and properly disposes of the trash. 

Back to that cold trout stream in the middle of January. The forecast was clear but clouds starting to roll over the mountain pass to the north and not long after it began to snow. I don't know if you have experienced standing in a river while its snowing but it can be breathtaking, watching the giant flakes fall and then hearing them sizzle as they melt into the water. There was no way I could stand there and not think of what a blessing it is to be able to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the river and the wilderness. I have a hard time not feeling one with God and his creation while experiencing this, and really any experience in the beautiful outdoors. 

Being raised in the church I am no stranger to being in a sanctuary. This is different, its a place where I can get away from social pressure and the questionably judgmental look from someone’s mom sitting in the pew behind me. The wilderness has no ill intent or any dress codes, it has no schedule and it doesn't have a pamphlet or a guest envelope, what it has is a song that sings with anyone who takes part in it. It demands respect and is screaming out with beauty and grander. It has it's differences but doesn't go separate ways over them. It works together to be the beautiful creation we call the great outdoors. As long as we continue to preserve it, treat it with care and respect, we will have this sanctuary for generations to come! 

I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn't go to church or that you can't find this peace elsewhere.  Maybe it's found somewhere completely different in the middle of Asheville, driving in your car, reading a book, on a golf course, checking your Instagram feed (doubtful), on stage, on a multi pitch climb, or even just sitting on your couch. I tend to find my sanctuary most when I let go of social normality, put my phone away, and become fully present and apart of the beautiful creation that we have been given.