Why Go Into the Woods?

Worldview at the Abbey is an academic program first and foremost—our new students have almost finished reading Plato's Republic and (even more impressively) are beginning to understand what Plato got right and what he got wrong. Worldview Academy has a long history of seeking to help students “think well in order to live well,” which means we put a premium on thoughtful discussions and wrestling with the big ideas. So why do we take three days in the middle of a hectic first month to camp and hike and raft with our students in the Colorado wilderness?

There are really three reasons, and each matter.  First, we want our students to learn to take delight in the beauty of God's creation.  We were created for more than merely “spiritual activities”; we were also created to marvel at the wonder of His workmanship: “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:9a, emphasis added). God made trees to produce fruit, it's true—but He also made trees to be beautiful and to please our eyes. We need to learn to care about the beauty of His creation as much as He does (see Psalm 104 if you have any doubts about this). And there's lots of beauty to marvel at in the Colorado mountains!

The second reason we take our Abbey students into the woods is to remind them that they can hold still without distractions. Almost 400 years ago Blaise Pascal observed that young people love to be distracted: “Anyone who does not see the vanity of the world is very vain himself.  So who does not see it, apart from young people whose lives are all noise, diversions, and thoughts for the future? But take away their diversion and you will see them bored to extinction.” And that was before cell phones and the internet! One of the most fruitful times on our wilderness adventure comes when students spend 30 minutes holding still, praying or reading their Bibles, at the destination we've hiked to. No text messages or broadcasts intrude, and the student learns the value of sustained focus on our Maker.

The third reason for our adventure is that the best place to learn what servant leadership really looks like is outside your comfort zone. All of our students know that we are called to die to ourselves and pick up our crosses and follow Christ (Mark 8:34-36), and some of our students are pretty good at it when all their homework is done and they're feeling well. But the place where the rubber meets the road is when you're being stretched. Can you consider others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3) when you're a little bit cold and your tent doesn't look right and your feet hurt? Can you stoop as Christ did in John 13 when you miss your bed and you're not sure about getting in that boat on the whitewater tomorrow? Not to mention the opportunities to serve! Are you bad at setting up your tent? Perhaps you can help someone cook or clean up dinner. Are you a fast hiker? Perhaps you can hide that fact from everyone to walk with the slowest hiker and encourage him. Serving can take many forms wherever you are, but as a whole group confronts the smallness of humans in the face of Nature they can clearly see how each person can play a role to help the Body of Christ.

Why does Worldview at the Abbey take students into the woods? After these past three days camping and hiking and rafting, each of our students knows the answer—and most can't wait to learn it again.