Emmanuel Macron (he’s the president of France, mais oui) spoke to our Congress yesterday, and offered this pithy observation: “We are killing our planet. Let’s face it, there is no planet B.” Now, I’m not exactly a model conservationist, but I have lived on planet A long enough to know that he’s absolutely right. You should see the sheer amount of trash (ketchup packets, condom wrappers, mini-bar bottles, baby wipes, and rotten food) that turns up on a daily basis just in my front yard. (Ah, the joys of city life.)
We are careless, oblivious. We are missing out.
Last week my husband and I had the opportunity to drop by the Denver Botanic Gardens before our annual pass expires, and we found a secluded little spot that reminded us of mountains. We perched on a granite boulder, lichen-crusted, just above a man-made waterfall that drowns out most of the urban noise. From this wooded vantage point, we were surrounded by beauty, and within minutes I felt like a swimmer coming up for air. I literally felt a physiological response to a few minutes of greenery. It was surreal
I don’t often write about environmental issues, not because I don’t care, but because I know the extent of my ignorance and am ashamed of my own bad habits. Not to put too fine a point on it, but lots of Christian writers in particular ignore this bit of stewardship. So in honor of planet A, I offer ten reasons we should care, ten reasons the earth is good for your soul.
- The world is so much bigger I am! At the risk of stating the obvious, how often do we pause to reflect on our relative insignificance? The vastness of the Pacific, the Amazon jungle, untouched Siberian forests, wind-whipped Sahara is on a gob-smacking scale. It follows, logically, that the Creator of such tremendous grandeur is himself unfathomably huge. This is the line of thought God unpacks when confronting Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7) He goes on, listing off his works in detail—rivers, constellations, storms, animals. In the end, Job is humbly speechless, staggered by the enormity of earth, and by extension, God. Spend a few hours on a mountaintop and see if you don’t feel similarly amazed.
- The earth is so much older than I am. The boulder I choose for a picnic spot has been here for hundreds (thousands?) of years. Long after I have returned to dust, the tree giving me shade will still stand. My problems are not especially unique; others have weathered worse. My life is a blink, but it’s just the beginning. As Paul put it, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-3) Acknowledging what a recent arrival I am on the planet reminds me how long ago God was already making plans for me, and how far into the future his grace extends.
- The inter-connectness of everything is staggering. How is it possible that God, designing the world, took into account the ripple effect of every single action and reaction of every single creature for all time? How is it possible that my consideration or carelessness can affect future generations, that someone else’s thoughtfulness in decades past can still affect me? To sit in an urban garden that must have once been a solitary person’s daydream, to absorb the peace of the place and walk out with its lingering scent clinging to my jacket, to watch as random strangers accidentally meet on gravel paths and bees fly freely in and out bringing pollen to new places—there is something extraordinary at work here. I am reminded once more of the brilliance of an eternal Architect, whose plans unfold in perfect detail all around.
- Beauty is everywhere, even when my world seems bleak. Tragedy never gets the last word, and never will. Many of Colorado’s golden aspen groves only appeared after forest fires, seemingly devastating. When fire sweeps through, it wipes out weeds and opens the forest floor to floods of sunlight. Wildflowers bloom in abundance. Beauty from ashes, indeed. Walk through a forest and listen to a sermon without words. Dostoevsky said, “Beauty will save the world.
- Tragedy is all around, even when my world seems merry. On the flip side, there is always death, pain, ache. You can see it in a rotting log, a fallen bird, even a sleek and healthy coyote that has feasted on some smaller creature. It is important to remember when all is well for me, that all is not well for someone else. My own losses are often quite small, in fact, compared to others. In 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul describes us as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” Keeping perspective allows us both to bear one another’s burdens and not to crumble when the dreaded phone call comes.
- Comedy is everywhere; God has a great sense of humor. In the midst of so much life and death there is always absurdity. What does it say of God that he invented woodpeckers, cross-eyed frogs, caterpillars? Name a great man who didn’t start out as a bobble head, who never spat green peas down his dribbly chin. We are small and silly, too, and yet beloved by a warm-hearted and affectionate Father. This is good news.
- When I have lost strength and lost heart, I can be still, and know that He is God. Sometimes we labor long and endure great hardship and our strength just… gives out. But if in those moments we can get away, get alone with God under the high dome of a leafy cathedral, we can simply look at him, and find a little peace. Nature is a lovely cure for weariness.
- I cannot hear myself think unless I get away from noise. Noise in our high-tech world is never-ending, from chirping mobile phones to honking cars. How can we pray if there is no pause from racket? How can we think, or dream? We impoverish ourselves by our layers of luxury. The simple quiet of empty beaches or lonely meadows is worth more to our souls than all the coffee shops in the world. When we allow the overdevelopment of cities for the sake of commuting convenience, our children pay the price. ““Today,” urges Hebrews, “if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Heb. 3:7) How can we hear his voice above all the noise?
- There is more to see than I have days to see it. How many lifetimes would it take to visit every pretty place in the green world? To see every one-of-a-kind butterfly? You and I are rich beyond measure, because eternity stretches before us to see God’s restored creation, every nook and cranny of it. In the meantime, it shouts to us of a better beauty. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps. 19:1-2)
- The earth is a gift for which I should be thankful. Stewardship is a privilege, a responsibility, and above all, a delight. If you haven’t yet today, go outside and look around. Every extravagant, abundant, joyful detail is a gift for your enjoyment! Let your thankful heart well up. “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10) “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.” (Ps. 96:11-13) It is well with my soul.
Many thanks to Luke Blaine for the gorgeous photos. Browse his art (and buy some!) at his website: https://www.lukeablainephotography.com
Catherine: You may turn me into a tree-hugger yet! Beautifully done.