This is my third post in my Call to Stewardship Series. If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here.
Ever since I began this blog two years ago, I have avoided it more than I’ve written for it. I feel silly for starting a blog that I never feel like writing for, and even sillier when I do write and no one reads. I’m at a stage in life when there are a good number of slow, menial tasks available to me at all times, and too often those tasks take precedence over my writing because they’re simpler and don’t make me think too hard about anything uncomfortable. The result is that I have a clean kitchen, a whole host of ideas about what I’d like to do when my husband retires from the Navy, and lots of free time, but no consistent blog posts to show for it.
It’s hard to write what no one is reading, and though there are some commonly used methods for blog writers to generate a large group of “followers,” try as I might, I can’t seem to justify most of these methods for my own use.
In other words, if you’re reading this, I appreciate you, because you’re one member of a very small audience.
In my last post from this series I wrote about our human relationships with the natural world and the aspects of creation that we feel particularly drawn to, and how they influence us to explore, and in turn to protect, these natural spaces that give us such a unique sense of peace. There are also many who, busy with family and faith and work, make the default choice to overlook the natural world around them because they simply don’t have time to dedicate to wandering through the woods or lying on the beach. If that’s you, my ideas about caring for God’s creation may seem pretty irrelevant, but give me a chance to change your mind. (By the way, not having time for nature, or anything else you aren’t involved in, is a choice, whether you make that choice through careful thought or by not thinking about it at all. Take a moment and read my post about owning your own time.)
So, if you can’t remember the last time you truly experienced the natural world beyond spraying weed killer in your yard or opening a can of peas, this is your starting point. Think back to the last time you had fun outdoors, whether that was last week or last decade. Did you ever stand still in your yard, weed killer in hand, and admire the way a tree’s leaves moved in the breeze? Did you attend an outdoor event and find that the environment changed how you experienced it? When is the last time you walked barefoot through the grass? God’s creation is one of His gifts to us, and He has created it for our use and enjoyment, so if you’re not using it or enjoying it, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to experience His presence.
If you already have a strong affinity for nature, then you’re ready to deepen that affection and allow it to become part of your spiritual life, a way of communing with God by experiencing His goodness first hand.
Begin at the Beginning
The natural world was God’s first creation. Before He made man and woman, He created the environment that they would inhabit. And He did so by calling it forth with His own voice from the Kingdom where He still lives:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. –Genesis 1: 1-2
God Himself created the beginning, and in doing so, He not only created the air we breathe and the solid ground we stand on, but He also created order itself. Genesis depicts God as a powerful artist, designing the world and ourselves by the power of His own existence and by the desire to create order and bring forth life from nothingness. We can learn much about God’s character from these verses alone.
As we read on through Genesis 1 our understanding of who God is and what He’s like is built as He builds His creation. God, by desire, created the dualities of light and darkness, water and dry land, heaven and earth, plants and animals, sun and moon, fish and birds, man and woman. Many of the things God created, even within a single day of the seven-day week of creation, represent opposing environments and foreshadow the trials to come in Genesis, and in the 21st century.
When we arrive at the creation of man and woman, there is a very distinct change that takes place. God created Heaven, earth, water, land, birds, animals and fish and placed them in an environment where they could live comfortably and sustainably. He designed these things to fulfill His purpose only, and so water is always wet, light is always light, dark is always dark, and a cow is always a cow. But when we come to the point when God creates people, He grants them a more sophisticated ability to think, choose, and plan.
Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1: 26-27
These two verses have a lot of information that we can use to learn who God is, what He’s like, and how He designed us to relate to the world around us. There is so much to unpack in these verses that I’m not going to attempt to do that. But we can list how His creation of man and woman is quite different from that of the rest of the world:
- He used His full, triune self to create us, and designed us as a reflection of His character in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- He gave us dominion over the fish, the birds, the animals, the insects, and every other living thing in His creation.
- He created both man and woman in His image, intending to give full dominion and leadership, and the fullness of His image and character, to both sexes.
And so we have another book I won’t attempt to write. The vast difference between God’s provision for land, plants, and animals and His provision for man and woman speaks to us of His love for us and His desire to be not just our creator, but also our companion, our caretaker, our father, our provider, our guide, and later, our Savior. He knew what He was doing, and what He would do, from the very start.
God gave men and women dominion over the rest of His creation, and this is likely at least one reason He built us to contain His full triune self. He wants us to use the fullness of His person to carry out this responsibility, so He gives us access to it. The problem is that we can know His full person, but we can’t become like Him through our own power. We were given the fullness of God’s character, and we were given free will to choose whether we would think and act according to that character, or to choose instead to think and act in accordance with our own ideas and desires, momentary as they may be.
And, human nature being what it is, Adam and Eve made that decision for us, separating us from God physically because of our inbred sin gene, and creating powerful compulsions toward willfulness, fear, self-focus, and doubt.
How about them apples?
Let me try to get to the point. God created us in His image so that we could be His designated caretakers, and He could guide us in that calling. He also gave us the free will to make the decision to not follow His guidance, because He wants us to choose to love Him and listen to Him, and love isn’t love when it’s forced. And with that free will, we choose not to love. When Adam and Eve made that first choice to put their momentary desires ahead of God’s calling and design, it was as if a debilitating, deadly gene mutation entered into the entire human race.
We did this, as humans, because God granted us the unique gift of self awareness and free will to choose His best for us or what we think is best for us. This sin-sickness is unique to humans – we all have it, but it can’t be passed to other species. It’s possible that we could train an animal or modify an organism to suit our own self desires, of course, but it takes human intention or neglect to corrupt any other portion of God’s creation. And boy have we done that.
When I look at birds, or trees, or worms, then, I am reminded of purity. I can’t say exactly how or when a predator/prey relationship became a part of the nature of animals, but I can say that there is no evidence that that was present at creation. So all these things around us that no human being has the true ability to create, I think, are an imperfect but accurate model of the elements God created for us from the beginning. He created and loves these plants, animals, and microorganisms, and He designed them with us in mind, like the most perfect present. And, because we’re people with a deadly gene mutation called self will run riot, we abuse these gifts to meet our own selfish demands.
This all probably sounds a lot more radical than it is in my life and my choices about my own relationship with the natural world. I recognize that I am created to be here, on earth as it is in 2020, for such a time as this, and while I have and do explore ideas and movements that are outside my comfort zone, I do have a comfort zone. So, for this Stewardship of the Earth series, I invite you to take what works for you, and leave the rest. If you want to grow your own vegetables but the idea of keeping a compost bin sounds too nasty and complicated, don’t do it. You can buy compost. If making your own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes isn’t your thing or doesn’t fit in your life, that’s cool too. You can opt to purchase tomato sauce in glass jars that you can then either reuse or recycle. There are infinite options here, and my only goal is to present them as examples of ways we can make small simple choices to honor this particular aspect of God’s character and provision for us.
So if you’re ready (or just morbidly curious), stay tuned for my next post, and we’ll get into the nitty gritty of creation stewardship.
Photos by Alexis Brown, Ivana Cajina, Johannes Plenio, Allen Taylor, Maria Teneva, Antoine Giret, and Vincent Van Zalinge via Unsplash.