Thursday, April 22nd marked Earth Day. A day to give thanks for the world in which we live. A day to marvel at the beauty and complexity of nature – its resilience and fragility, its splendor and vastness. In the first chapter of Genesis, we hear of God’s labor pains in the creation of our world. We hear the story about God’s inspired and careful work when the earth was nothing but a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep. After creating all that is, God created us, in God’s own image. It’s surprising that anyone can make it any further than that bombshell of a verse when they are reading the Bible. You were created it the image of the divine! You bear God’s likeness in the core of who you are! What an incredible, mind-boggling, and wonderful idea?! It is an affirmation of all people. A comment on the worth and value of every single human life. A blessing of unimaginable proportions. It’s tempting to simply stop right there, to rest in, and ponder that fact.
But God wasn’t done. Because once humanity was created, then God looked upon everything that had been made, and reckoned it to be very good. And humanity was tasked with having dominion over all of creation. Now, many people have misunderstood this as both an order, and as permission. An order to bend and break the natural world to our will, and permission to do whatever we want with its resources. In truth, having dominion over actually means being caretakers of, protectors of, guardians of. We were not called to drain earth dry of every possible resource. To take and take and take, thinking that there would always be enough to satisfy our needs. We were entrusted with this world’s safekeeping.
I think that our relationship with creation has shifted over the past year. I certainly know that my appreciation of it has grown. Nature has been one of the few escapes, especially for those of us lucky enough to live here in San Diego. Afternoon walks, drives along the ocean, bike rides, and paddle board outings have all provided safe ways to escape from the confines of home, while still remaining safe. And let’s not forget how the animals have responded. A few months into the pandemic there started to be news stories about animals showing up in unexpected places. Mountain goats wandering the streets of small towns in Wales. Wild boars roaming free in Israel. Dolphins popping up all over the place (some fake, some true). It was truly a beautiful sight to behold, and really made us reconsider a few things. Despite understanding ourselves to be at the top of the food chain, despite the massive feats of engineering and taming of the natural world that we have created, just a few weeks of staying inside our homes, and nature began to retake control. Nature began to heal itself of the damage that our pollution and exploitation have done. Nature showed us its true power – the regenerative power of creation. The ability to bring new life out of death; a resurrection spirit that mirrors that of its Creator.
So, while Earth Day has “officially” come and gone, in reality we have been called to treat every day like Earth Day. To treat every day as a new opportunity to value, protect, restore, and preserve this beautiful world that we have been given.