As I write this I am hanging in a hammock among the many trees of Cherokee Park in Louisville. My wife, Lydia, is lying in her hammock which is tied up in between the two trees next to me. Together, we make a triangle-hammock between three trees. I just put my book down (which is about trees). Without trees, I wouldn’t be enjoying the book in the first place.
The birds are chirping, their short calls echoing about. I wonder what they’re communicating to each other? Every 60 seconds or so, a gust of wind comes whistling through the tree tops, making the leaves look like green ocean waves above our heads. A tiny bee just flew in between me and my laptop! It didn’t seem to be looking for harm.
I am hardly ever this reflective about a particular moment. It’s nice to slow down from the busyness of life and catch a moment’s breath. The very act of slowing down beckons my heart to a depth that you just can’t find in the rush. So, I want to take a moment to talk about something that has been sitting with me for quite a while. I hope you enjoy.
The Beginning, Literally
In the beginning, God created everything. From the trillions of stars and moons and suns in the Universe to the 1.5 sextillion (that’s a 1 followed by 20 zeros!) molecules that can be found in a single drop of water, God created it all. God did not create stars and moons and trees and the cattle on a thousand hills so that one day He could throw it into a fiery furnace. In fact, whatever God creates is a reflection of His beauty and eternal nature (Rom. 1: 20).
Simply said, God created the Universe because He’s a creative God.
The Earth is Not Evil
To be sure, there are some very real evils in the world. It doesn’t take long to look around and realize that. But when you look at those evils, it will become quite clear that those evils are not being brought about by the Earth. Actual evil comes through the actions of those who are walking on the broad road that leads to destruction, rather than the narrow road that leads to love and life that never ends.
For some, the idea that God loves the Earth and is redeeming it too, along with humans, seems odd. After all, we are called to not “love the world.” But there needs to be a line drawn in the sand to show that what Jesus and Paul call “the world” does not mean “the Earth” or “nature.” What Jesus calls “the world,” Paul calls “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2).”
Even more, when John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world,” he is not talking about nature or the Earth itself. What does he mean by “things in the world,” one might ask? He gives us the answer two verses later: “the world is passing away along with it’s desires (1 Jn. 2:17).”
“Things in the world” = “Passions of the flesh,” “Desires of the body and mind,” “prince of the power of the air,” etc.
“Things in the world” DOES NOT EQUAL trees and birds and oceans and stars.
Here are just a few examples where Scriptures bears witness to the God-given beauty of Creation:
- “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the very work of His hands.” ~Psalm 19: 1
- “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” ~Psalm 24:1
- “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.” ~Psalm 96: 11-12
The Earth is Good
Again I say, the Earth is good. It’s good because God called it “good.” It’s good because Scripture reveals a God who cares about the Earth, even when others don’t. It’s good because, like us, it’s being redeemed (deemed worthy again) in Jesus Christ. Above all, the Earth is good because it has been beautifully crafted to point us in the direction of the Creator God.
It’s important to remember that Christians are not pantheists. In other words, nature is not God. Christians believe that nature is a reflection of God’s beauty and power. Now in some sense, God intends for humans to feel a connection with the Earth. This “connection” is not to be confused with some new age ideology with the mantra, “I am One with the Universe.” Instead, the connection I’m speaking of, and I believe the Bible speaks of plenty, is a God-centered connection. It’s the connection that David felt as he looked up in the night sky and wrote Psalm 19, or the awe that Job felt when he wrote out the verses found in Job 12: 7-10.
Our connection with nature is meant to help us become closer with God, not distance us from Him.
A Moment to be Captured
A friend recently reminded me of a quote from a C.S. Lewis book. The book’s called Letters to Malcolm and it’s primarily about prayer. In the book, Lewis talks about the relationship between gratitude and adoration for things like nature. In one chapter, Lewis spends time meditating on a “sun beam” that was shining through a toolshed he was standing in. The quote comes right after this meditation. Prepare yourselves friends, because this is sooo good.
“The distinction ought to become, and sometimes is, impossible; to receive it and to recognize its Divine Source are a single experience. This heavenly fruit is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew. This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows. It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that Right Hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore.” ~ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Isn’t that good? Lewis sees praise and thanksgiving as a single event. When we are touched by something like a beautiful evening sunset, we have the opportunity to enter into a moment of praise and thanksgiving. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that deep feeling of reverence or awe that strikes you silent, leaving only the word “WOW” upon your lips. It’s that time you laid down in the grass and looked up to see a sky full of stars and planets and galaxies swirling above you. It’s that moment when you saw the ocean for the very first time. Nature, which is always declaring God’s glory and infinite power, beckons us into this praise.
Like anything else, nature can become a god, an object of worship. But for those who have seen God in the face of Jesus Christ, nature can become a river of God’s beauty that overwhelms us with gratefulness and adoration. Jesus calls us to gaze upon the lilies of the field, not to make us anxious, but to give us rest. He calls us to capture the moment in the field because He knows Who dresses each lily, morning after morning.
And remember my friends, even when humans do not praise King Jesus, the stones will.
Grace and Peace,