How can I care about creation without getting overwhelmed?
The pendulum swings regularly in my mind between wanting to make a difference and wanting to do something for God and feeling totally overwhelmed and wanting to abide not strive in my life. I guess it is like that for a lot of us - we want to care deeply for our spouses, our children, our relationships with God, our work / ministry / whatever else we do with our time. And yet trying to manage all of that in a way that feels we have been good and faithful servants can just feel overwhelming - like we are dropping more balls than we are juggling.
One challenge as I have focused on meeting with God in creation this month is how little I and other people care about creation in general. Now I have grown in love for God’s creation over the years, and I like animals and have tried to do what I can to recycle and be ethical in my food and spending choices where I can, but something has shifted this month. And it probably has something to do with reading Jonathan Merritt’s book ‘Green like God’.
In Chapter 4, Jonathan discusses God’s original design for humans in regards to the earth, based on Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:15 and how far we have distorted His intentions for us. We have taken the command to “subdue” and “rule over” the earth in Genesis 1:28 and somehow arrogantly believed that that means we have a right to treat the earth however we want, forgetting that we have been given authority by God not ownership. Jonathan likens the authority we have from God to the authority we give to those who babysit our children - we expect them to look after them to the best of their ability not to take personal advantage over them or the situation. When we take the attitude that we can use the earth however we like we are also forgetting Genesis 2:15 which says:
The Hebrew verbs to “work it” and “take care of it” can also be translated as “to tend, cultivate, work or till” and “to watch over, keep, look after, keep in order, take care of”. They reveal a responsibility to care for and to stay close to creation.
God’s heart’s desire is that we take hold of the authority He has given us on this earth to benevolently rule over creation and look after it for Him. It is an act of worship and reveals our love and concern for our Creator. Just as when a babysitter treasures my kids and loves them it blesses me as well as them, when we treasure and look after creation, it blesses the Creator - it shows Him we treasure those things He has entrusted us with.
Until this month, I never realized the privilege and authority God has given us as believers to treasure, rule over, watch over and take care of His creation. As I looked at Peter Spiel’s picture book Noah’s Ark with the boys last night I was struck with how much God cared about his creation that He not only saved mankind but also all of the creatures when He flooded the earth. His rescue plan back then included His animals. He may not value them as much as He values us, but He still deeply cares about them. Creation care it isn’t just for zoo keepers and green activists - it is for every child of God and I don’t know about you but taking that responsibility seriously feels overwhelming!
So what can we do? What have I begun to do this month?
I needed to repent of my lack of taking responsibility for God’s creation. I needed to repent of my lack of taking creation care seriously. I needed to ask God to show me how I could make changes to things under my influence which were sustainable.
2) Examine what things are under my current authority.
Often we don’t acknowledge creation care because we think we will never make a difference on a global scale, but God hasn’t given me a role in global politics so why should I be worried about that anymore than I should be paralyzed to spend my money because I am not a millionaire. I had to begin by looking at what things I could do. The first change happened when I found out that plastic and polystyrene takes at least centuries to decompose (nobody truly knows but it could be thousands of years). That means our great-great-grandchildren will still be dealing with our waste. Plastic can be recycled but it is still not ideal, but polystyrene is just bad, bad, bad. So one of the things we have done is stopped buying things with polystyrene. We have started buying a block of cheese rather than slices. A small thing I know, but something that is in my authority to do something about. We have also chatted to the kids about ways we can minimize energy use around the house and helped to educate them more. We have also joined in with others in the church to help clean up the rubbish on the beach. Small things that can make a difference. And when other opportunities arise, I plan to embrace them with faith and responsibility.
3) Pray about those things I don’t have influence over right now.
As I was walking along the beach this morning I was thinking about a chapter I had read in Green like God which talked about how much we are wrecking the earth. Unless things change, the future for our children is pretty hopeless. I believe that I; that all Christians have a role in caring for creation and being strong on making ethical and wise decisions when it comes to protecting and restoring creation.
But I also feel totally overwhelmed about how I can make a difference.
And then I felt the Spirit to say to pray. I don’t know why but to start off with I felt stupid praying for environmental issues and creation care. But as I prayed walking next to the sea which had just shifted from low tide to rising tide, I felt God lead me to pray that the tide would change on this earth in regards to Christians taking creation care seriously. I felt led to pray that God would raise up more people who will influence government and nations to make decisions which will protect and restore the earth. That the tide would change. That creation care would be a central care of the church not just seen as a 'weird hippy issue'.
At first I felt like prayer was not enough, but then I started thinking how powerful prayer is and how powerful it could be if Christians began praying about a turning of a tide in our world in terms of creation care, as much as we pray about other global important issues such as war situations and presidential elections and the refugee crisis. Although they appear unlinked they are not. Each humanitarian crisis is a result of a lack of creation care - lack of care for God’s creation: whether that be disregard for the land, ethical issues relating to seeking and handling of wealth or treatment of mankind.
Lord, may the tide change on this earth and may we care about Your creation - the land you made which is so beautiful and potentially fruitful to sustain us and bless us; the animals you gave us to enjoy, help and benefit from; the seasons and weather you made for our good. You said Your creation was good and we are sorry when we have used and abused it rather than tended and watched over it. Please change our hearts and change the tide on this earth so that Your creation is a concern of your children. Amen.
Check out Jonathan Merritt’s book Green like God - interesting, informative and a necessary read for us all.