Paying attention to God’s involvement in the environment gives us a more encouraging way forward.
“Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” explained Phileena Heurtz. “When I consider the state of our world and the concern of the future for our planet, it feels very heavy. It can be depressing.”
“But, Jesus said his burden was light. What I've found is that through contemplation, we can enter into the life of God that is involved on our planet.”
She learned to embrace a practice of mindful silence and listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Then she found another way to approach the issue of the environment. She was different from the heaviness and despair she was more used to seeing.
This change in outlook is available to us as well. We don’t need to be the planet’s saviors as much as we need to align ourselves with the Savior. By drawing closer to God, we can find that the planet still has a strong case for hope. God’s plan for redemption includes all of Creation.
But how can we be more perceptive about what God is doing in our planet, especially during a time of environmental crisis? Here are a few things worthy of our attention:
God designed a planet that thrives on diversity
When you take a more expansive look at the world, you notice how God designed things to thrive on diversity. Any biodiversity hotspot serves as an example that life is so much healthier when it comes in many different forms.
Diversity is a good thing. This is true for species that inhabit an ecosystem, people that make up a society, individuals that make up a team, crops that grow on a farm, or sources of income for a family. It’s when we tempt farmers to grow a single crop, encourage people to see through a single perspective, or reduce the number of species in a habitat that things start to go truly wrong.
Revelation 7:9 shows how wide ranging diversity is a part of God’s great vision. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…”
At a time where systems marginalize many cultures or people groups, this is our reminder that God calls us in the opposite direction. In effect, environmental restoration efforts are much more effective when culture is considered as an important factor in creating change.
God’s heart for diversity can also extend to biodiversity. At a time when one million species are at risk of extinction, we must remind ourselves that each of those species was deliberately designed by God. We have a responsibility to protect the gift of biodiversity he has given our world.
God has given us the gift of resilience
Not only is life a gift and a miracle, but it is an incredibly resilient one. The persistence that God has given life to find its way amidst obstacles is a testament to his will for life to thrive.
Jesus talks about coming for people to experience life abundantly, and while we usually read that with an individualized focus. Why stop there? Without any human effort, rainforests like the Amazon have grown and housed millions of plant, insect, and animal species. Waterways have carved out canyons and fjords, and the most breathtaking scenes have come into existence.
This isn’t to say we should relax our efforts to take care of creation. If anything, this should inspire us to participate in making sure life continues to thrive.
The resilience of creation, and the persistence of life means that if we steward things well, life can grow abundantly. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that sometimes a solution as simple as the reintroduction of trees around Mt. Kilimanjaro can impact the environment. It is enough to cool temperatures, increase food growth, and bring back bird species that haven’t been seen in generations.
Heurtz points out the value of paying attention to God’s work in the environment. It reminds us that we are called to be co-participants, not saviors. “It's the difference between thinking it's up to us and learning how to partner with the Creator who cares more than we do,” she says. “How to serve and work in a way that is in service of the good of the planet while relinquishing control and attachment to outcome.”
Our full conversation with Phileena Heurtz is featured in Episode 4 of the Grassroots Podcast- Loving God By Loving Creation. To listen, look for us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Or use the player down below!