Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! -Genesis 1:31 (NLT)
I blame it on my brother for giving me a full color book of endangered species when I was around seven years old. I memorized that thing. Between that, our set of wildlife encyclopedias, and his stash of National Geographics, I knew more details about more animals than a college environmental studies major. Which, you understand, I fully intended to be.
This is what enneagram 5’s do as children.
That’s why, when a mourning cloak butterfly came to my window this morning, I knew exactly what it was. I know the times and names of nearly all the birds at my feeder, plants in my yard, and insects that populate them. Since the day I grabbed that book with my little hands and retreated to a corner, I’ve loved God’s creation in all its variety.
We’ve all had a chance to see how the earth changes when humans aren’t impacting it as much as we normally do since the COVID shutdown. Air pollution declined, and wild animals roamed city streets. I’m used to the occasional coyote in my yard, but Michigan Avenue isn’t. The earth even trembled less than usual.
For a lot of us, this has offered hope. Like Paul mentions in Romans, we’ve been longing for creation to be made right. I’m looking forward to that day when “the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat” (Is.11:6 NLT), because I assume that’s when I’ll fulfill my lifelong dream to pet a mountain lion.
“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” -Romans 8:19-21 (NLT).
The curse in the Garden of Eden came after the humans sinned. Part of the consequences of sin, then, is the devastation wreaked on God’s creation. We like to think of environmental degradation as “just something that happens,” but God’s word says it’s the direct result of sin that puts humans at the center and everything else on the sidelines.
He tells us in the next verse that creation-his creation—groans and suffers over this. The words intentionally connote childbirth. Any woman who’s been through that knows these are not tiny little whimpers but full out, pain-filled wails for the earth to be as it was meant to be when God pronounced it “very good.”
Paul does speak of the world yet to come, but he also speaks of the world now. Paul does this—gives his sisters and brothers a vision for what should and will be, while also giving them a mandate to start the work now. The Bible knows far less of “I’ll Fly Away,” than “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
Christians, we need to care about this. In another letter, Paul explains how Jesus created and sustains the universe. If this is so, then anything I do to interrupt that sustaining runs counter to the acting and intention of Jesus. If I uncaringly toss mud into the wheels he is trying to keep turning, I also uncaringly work against Jesus in this world.
That sobers me.
If I decide it’s too time-consuming or confusing to care about his creation, this is what I need to recall. If my outlook is that “it’s all going to burn anyway and I’m going to heaven,” then I don’t have the mind of Christ. (I also have to check my facts, because that’s not biblically accurate theology.)
As the weather turns cooler and leaves will soon turn redder, creation struts its glory this time of year. It holds noting back as it sings to us all—“Oh Lord—your majestic name fills the earth!” (Ps. 8:1 NLT). I long, groan even, to recognize that majestic name in all created things, large and small. I long for us to decide, after seeing the earth heal from us, that we want to keep that process moving forward, not going back to normal. I pray that believers take the front lines in that, with a vision of God’s majestic work and his words of “very good” echoing in our minds.
In September, I know what happens here. The monarchs fly away for the last time. The sunflowers will have their last burst of exuberance, and the tomatoes will be slowing down. Squirrels dig holes in my garden to bury black walnuts for the winter. Starlings will come at the feeders in full force, preparing to leave, and yellow jackets (I do not love those particular creations) sting for the sheer fun of it. We’ll harvest the tender herbs and maybe still plant some sugar snap peas.
I know this because this little acre of God’s creation is my haven and my “very good.” I know who lives in it, and I know the goldfinches like the sunflowers, the bunnies like the dandelions, and, sadly, the coyotes like the bunnies.
God knows his creation, down to the last detail, and he entrusted it to us. He gave us the great gift of a planet created specifically and perfectly for us. I can’t wait for its restoration. I can’t wait to pet that mountain lion! Meanwhile, I want to help Jesus sustain it rather than hinder him. Oh, Lord—your majestic name fills the earth!
Photos credit: Jill Richardson @JillMarieRichar