Have you ever camped out alone in a remote mountain location? Perhaps everyone should at least one time. Once deprived of the sense of vision by the darkness of night, the other senses go on high alert. What would happen if we were deprived of all of our senses? How would we experience life? More importantly how would we experience God? Is it possible that our senses are so full of worldly things that we can’t sense God? Please read on.
Today I want to share the experience of one of my solo overnight camping trips. I believe there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from it.
I have always enjoyed hiking, backpacking and camping. I enjoy the solitude of doing these activities alone. One memorable experience was my backpacking trip to camp alone on the banks of the infamous Chattooga River. (The river was used as a setting for the fictional Cahulawassee River in the film Deliverance) I suppose that the scary scenes from that movie only served to heighten my fears on that pitch black moonless night, as I slept alone in my tent.
With darkness blotting out my sense of vision, my hearing was on overdrive. That night I heard the sounds of falling acorns, the scampering feet of rodents, skunks and squirrels. I also heard breaking tree branches, the rustling of birds, the incessant cacophony of insects, the wind, the eerie hooting of owls, a distant screeching of some animal being attacked and killed by some other animal, and the sudden splash of something falling from a tree into the river. Each sound created a startling uneasiness within me.
Combined with these sounds were my fears of a hungry bear swiping his claw through my tent, or the possibility of an encounter with a gun toting nefarious person.
I hope my description above allows you to vicariously share in the experience of that night. The darkness put a sensory overload on my hearing resulting in a very sleepless night. Before I get to today’s key point, let’s first segue into a brief look at the science of our senses.
Did you realize that modern science has called into question the exact number of our senses? Some believe that there may be more than just the five we all learned about as children: those of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. In fact, scientists today even debate what a sense actually is. The discovery of the five accepted senses dates all the way back to Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), so for our purposes here we will use those five.
There are a couple of interesting facts you may not know. Are you aware that our individual senses don’t work independently? Our brains process all of our senses simultaneously. It is from this combined sensory input that our brain perceives each individual sense. Doctors have long known that the loss of smell has an effect on the way we taste things. Our most dominant sense is sight. In an interesting discovery, researchers have found that when sight and hearing are in conflict with each other our brains allows what we see to overrule what we hear, this is known as the McGurk effect. It was my sight deprivation that made my overnight experience so scary.
Enough science! We can all agree we experience life through our senses. Here in lies the problem. As humans we experience pleasure and emotions through our senses. It is our pursuit of FALSE pleasures that gets us into trouble.
John Denver wrote Annie’s Song for his wife Ann Martell after their first separation and near break up of their marriage in 1974. Denver later wrote: “Suddenly, I’m hypersensitive to how beautiful everything is. All of these things filled up my senses, and when I said this to myself unbidden images came one after the other. All of the pictures merged and I was left with Annie. That song was the embodiment of the love I felt at that time.” Here are a few of the lyrics from that song:
You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again
While this was a love song meant for John’s wife these words should be the words that we all sing to God. Are they?
For today’s purpose I choose the example of my camping trip to illustrate just how my senses were filled up “like night in a forest.” Each of John Denver’s other descriptions also bring with them their own opportunity for sensory completeness.
Now here is a sad ending to this most beautiful love song. We know from these lyrics that John’s wife Annie once completely filled his senses. Sadly he would later divorce her. Obviously other things began to fill up his senses. Perhaps it was his fame, maybe it was other woman, maybe it was his struggle with alcohol, but clearly his senses were drawn to other things.
No doubt our senses can be a source of temptation. What struggles do your eyes tempt you with? Does the taste of alcohol lead you to drunkenness? Does the sound of coins dropping into your bank account cause you to chase after the almighty dollar? Does a sensuous touch cause you to pursue sinful passions? Does the smell of food lead you to gluttony? How do your senses lead you astray?
Can you see that by our very design our souls yearn to be completely filled with God? But as we live out our earthly existence our senses go off in pursuit of sensory stimuli rather than seeking the fulfillment of God. If we fill ourselves up with these other things there may not be room left for God. These false pursuits might eventually cause us to divorce ourselves from God. So again I ask you, what fills up your senses?
We each have God sized holes in our hearts. He alone can fill our yearning! The last words of those lyrics above are: “come fill me again“. Let’s cry out to God today with those exact words.
“O God, you are my God__ it is you I seek! For you my body yearns.” Psalm 63:2
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