A Journey of Discovery with God
A Journey of Discovery with God
by Rich Horton
An archaic meaning of the word ‘discover’ is to make known, reveal. In many ways I feel my life has been a journey to make known or reveal God for me. It goes all the way back to my childhood when I would find any excuse to be in nature. At about the age of four I found a nest of black snakes and played with them…even got bit by one. By the time I was in elementary school I would find any opportunity I could to get outdoors, sit by a stream in the woods, climb in trees and play in the dirt. I didn’t know it then, but those experiences were how I was searching for God. I always knew I was different. I didn’t have many friends. And, when I was upset or feeling hurt, I would go and hang on the neck of my horse…that was my friend; and I would feel comforted. I realize now I was searching for God and really finding God, but not realizing it. God had not yet been revealed to my consciousness. I felt I had to be the best little boy in the world in order to gain the acceptance and love of others, so I tried to excel in the roles I took on, i.e. student, son, caretaker, teacher and administrator. The only time I really felt good about myself was when someone else praised my accomplishments and when I was in nature. I even became the director of a nature center so I could be with the wildflowers, birds, trees, rocks and streams. God was knocking but I wasn’t hearing the knock as I was too caught up in who I thought everyone else and God thought I should be.
I am now reminded of how Father Richard Rohr says it takes great suffering or great love to transform our lives into the true self God created us to be. My great suffering came to a head at the age of 45. Everything in my life was coming apart, my marriage was failing, my work role was dissolving, and nothing seemed to be going right. If I ever needed God it was then. The crack finally happened and the light came in when I came out. And then more than ever I turned to non-human creation to discover who I am. I filled volumes of journals as I sat in my “magic spot” in the woods, or in a field, or by a stream, or even in my house listening to the songs of birds and insects.
I had many wonderful mentors along this part of the journey, men like John McNeil on the Kirkridge Mountain where I was invited to “Take a Chance on God.” Chris Glaser helped me feel the words, “you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Parker Palmer led me to a whole new understanding of “The Courage to Teach.” And always I found myself looking for God in the wonders of creation, or as J. Philip Newell says, “Listening for the Heartbeat of God.”
I came to meet the work of Richard Rohr as I was participating in a spiritual workshops series for people in transition. I started reading him, going on retreat with him, and getting his daily meditation. He affirmed my looking to nature for God as he shared his own understanding of panentheism. Bingo…that was it, I am a panentheist, for the Spirit of God is in all of creation and thus I was affirmed in my longing to be with God in nature. It was through one set of Rohr videos that I came to know the work of Bill Plotkin…oh, how I love wilderness wanderings. God was revealed to me as I talked to a tree and then listened for the Spirit to talk back to my in that tree. It was through the Center for Action and Contemplation that I came to know of what is now known as Illuman. I thank Chuck Rihm for pulling me into the local group in Cleveland and continuing to support my own journey with other men through the Columbus small group and through retreats and workshops.
The 2014 Men’s Right of Passage really forced me to go beyond my ego roles and focus on the true self deep within. I did a lot of shadow work at the event and again it was almost a full day spent alone in the woods the led me deeper and deeper into accepting myself as a man filled with God and a man in God. I am blessed with knowing that I am the many possibilities of love, joy and wonder and all that entails in my life. Each and every day I thank God for walking with me in my journey of being a spiritual being in a human body and able to touch God and listen for God in all the wonders of nature.
June 2, 2019
Rich participated in a Men's Rites of Passage at Pilgrim Park, Illinois in 2014 (sponsored by Illinois M.A.L.Es) and has been involved with Ohio Illuman for many years. He helps to organize and facilitate local councils among men in Columbus, Ohio. Rich and his husband Ron are also very active in building a supportive community of friends and family.