Saturday, July 17, 2010

John Muir's Father

I have been reading about one of the great wilderness prophets of America- John Muir. From what I have gathered, it seemed the mountains were a place of healing for him. He went west for something that seemed difficult to fully trace from his past, but as I came upon this letter written to him by his father after an article was published, I am reminded all the more of what, despite tremendous shame, he birthed for many. His father was a heavy reformed calvinist...

My Very Dear John,

Were you as really happy as my wish would make you, you would be permanently so in the best sense of the word. I received yours of the third inst. with your slip of paper, but I had read the same thing in "The Wisconsin," some days before I got yours, then I wished I had not seen it, because it harried up my feelings so with another of your hair-breadth escapes. Had I seen it to be God's work you were doing I would have felt the other way, but I knew it was not God's work, although you seem to think you are doing God's service. If it had not been for God's boundless mercy you would have been cut off in the midst of your folly. All that you are attempting to show the Holy Spirit of God gives the believer to see at one glance of the eye, for according to the tract I send you they can see God's love, power, and glory in everything, and it has the effect of turning away their sigh and eyes from the things that are seen and temporal to the things that are not seen and eternal, according to God's holy word... You cannot warm the heart of the saint of God with your cold icy-topped mountains. O, my dear son, come away from them to the spirit of God and His holy word, and He will show our lovely Jesus unto you, who is by His finished work presented to you, without money and price... And the best and soonest way of getting quit of the writing and publishing your book is to burn it, and then it will do no more harm either to you or others.

Muir's father through beating and memorization had Muir memorize all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament by 11 years old. As I read these words above, it made me grow to love Muir as a man even more. Much of Muir's words have such biblical imagery that open the natural world in a way that Emerson and trascendentalism was trying to get away from. Muir was bringing the gospel words in the places he was going. He was preaching something that at his father's level had no worth, and was outside of God. And yet, he was using the language and opening people to the beauty of creation.

There is a story that as he spent time in Yosemite Valley there was erected a church for services for the guests. He would ask the question, why would someone worship in such a man made structure, when the temple of worship was all around them.

I just got back from 5 days of fly-fishing with 14 young men. Many of them it being the first time to hold a fly rod, and catch a trout. On one day, we caught 231. Native greenback cutthroat trout. The most amazing red and greens.

The man who led us into Rocky Mountain National Park was Ron Smith. One of our guides for Training Ground. He is 63, and been fishing those waters sense he was five.

Ron reminds me of John Muir. He has a hard past with religion, but somehow, it always comes back to that, much like Muir. No matter the past, no matter the pain. The metaphors, the images, the heart always has the gospel in it. Many of our southern friends were a bit taken by Ron, since he doesn't fit the classic christian man. But one of my favorite quotes from the weekend is when Ron looks around the group during one of our times together in the evening all huddled together and says, "I meet Jesus every time I catch a trout. If I catch 15 trout, it's like I am re-born 15 times that day."

I love the John Muir's of the world. Men who are a bit outside the norm. On the edges of what most would consider "in." And yet, you can't even begin to count him out. He is the prophet pointing to Jesus, much like Muir. And I am saddened as I read those words about Muir's father, that little did he know what his son was offering to the world.