I was introduced to Earth Day through my parents. My father likes to recycle and and my mother likes to spend time talking to trees. My grandpa, and avid outdoorsman, also made sure to tell me and my sisters and my cousins about the wonders of nature. His birthday (we called it his “Earth Day Birthday”) was spent planting pine trees around his property.
I’d say it’s as good an introduction to nature that a kid could get these days. I learned about the different types of trees, about the critters that inhabited them, about the fish in the pond and the pond itself. I also learned this crazy idea about how we – humans, trees, the critters in the trees, the fish in the pond and the pond itself – are all a part of this huge ecosystem. A part of life.
I’ve spent a lot of time outside. Perhaps not as much as I would like to, but a lot none-the-less. If my upbringing has taught me anything, it is to listen to my surroundings. I’ve been taught to soak up my environment and allow it to teach me things.
Opening my ears and eyes subsequently opened my mind.
There is something to be learned from nature.
Have you ever noticed the way the sunlight reflects off of the ripples on the surface of a pond? Have you ever tossed a rock in the water and made those ripples that the sun reflects off of? Have you watched where those ripples go?
If you haven’t, you should.
Go out right now, find a pond or river, and toss a rock in. Not a big one – you don’t want to knock out an unknowing carp – just a pebble. Watch how the ripples dissipate outward and travel to the far corners of the pond. See how the tadpoles and minnows scatter and how that carp kicks up muck as it scurries to eat that pebble.
There is life all around us. And the smallest action can disturb it.
Now think of a bigger picture.
God is that sunshine, that pond is our world, and we are the life inhabiting it. The pebble is our actions.
The sun provides us with a lot of things; with warmth, with Vitamin D, with light. God’s love can melt a frozen heart, a frozen spirit, a frozen soul. Now, I don’t know about God’s nutrient content, but He is also Light. And as God’s creations, we are children of Light. Just as the sun shines all day on the critters of the pond, God shines His light on us. We live in that light.
Or do we?
The pebble, tossed carelessly into the pond. Our actions, poorly thought out and misjudged, misguided – carelessly tossed into the world. People sin. We hurt each other. We throw stones although we live in glass houses. We say things, make decisions, and take actions that harm not only ourselves but the people and creatures around us on a daily basis. Why? How can we be living in the light when we commit such darkness?
Because we don’t stop and think. We don’t consider the life around us. We go, go, go. Do, do, do. Try, try, try. But do we ever accomplish anything? Sometimes, maybe. But what happens when we don’t?
Then we repent, repent, repent. Or we lose faith. We never really learn a lesson.
And yet that sun still shines on us.
The fact is that we don’t deserve it. Humans are capable of committing horrid atrocities against each other and the environment, and we often do just that.
People make the conscious decision every day to do terrible things. But God doesn’t tell us to go out and judge each other and treat each other and everything around us like dirt. God did not say, “Go out into the world and do my job for me. Judge people as I will judge you.” He said, “Love each other as I have loved you.”
Unfortunately, it is easier to lash out and be angry than it is to love and forgive. Forgiveness is hard. It is hard to love someone who has wronged you. But if we can’t forgive a person for wronging us, how do we expect God to ever forgive our own sins?
I hear people say that they strive to be “Christ-like”. I don’t like that. To me it sounds like a cheap imitation. I don’t want to be a cheap imitation of Christ. In fact, I don’t want to be Christ. I can’t be Christ. Myself – in my flawed, weak, fleshly human form – cannot be Christ. And I cannot by my own self-effort strive to be like Christ.
Christ can be us.
An empty cup is… an empty cup. It has no purpose other than to be filled and used. You might say, “Well gee, you could tie some some string to the end of it and connect it with another cup to make a telephone.” But that’s besides the point. A cup was not created to be used as a telephone. A cup was meant to be filled. We are meant to be filled with the Spirit so we are no longer an empty cup, but a full one – an overflowing one.
Same thing with a vessel. Now, an overflowing vessel might sink, so I’m not going to say that it should be overfilled. But its purpose is to carry something. As vessels, we are meant to carry the Spirit and deliver it. We are meant to be filled with Love and share that Love. We are meant to be filled with Patience and share that Patience.
A branch cannot grow without a trunk. It cannot bloom flowers of many reds and pinks and whites – it cannot be beautiful and alive – without the trunk. The trunk and its strong roots deep in the ground are the source of that branch’s life. It is the reason that flower blooms.
So, why then does the light still shine on us?
Because God calls on the undeserving. He calls us to be better – to be above the line. While we humans are capable of committing horrible things apart from God, with Him we are also very much capable of Goodness.
And we aren’t alone. God is here. Right now. I cannot be good because I am not good. I am flawed. But God is good. We don’t need to try to be good when God is good and God is within us. If we give up our will and our agendas and abide in God to work His will in us then it is no longer us that lives, but Christ that lives in us. Christ can be us.
We get so caught up in ourselves. What we want, what we think, what we do. We don’t realize that we’re a part of something more – something bigger. There are lives around us that are important. Just as important as ours.
We take life for granted, but life can be taken away so swiftly. Just as quickly as a frog darting out its tongue and ending the life of a fly, or a bullet striking a person down in their tracks.
A worker bee’s main goal in life is to help the growth of new bees. They do everything possible to make sure that the youth are fed, warm, and cared for until they reach maturity. The average lifespan of a worker bee is one year. If you had just one year on this Earth, would you be so quick to spend your time hurting each other and committing crimes against your environment? I should hope not.
On this Earth Day, don’t go and buy a Brita water filtration system from Walmart. Go outside. If you want to, plant a tree. But don’t just plant a tree and be done with it. Watch how it soaks up the water you feed it. Listen as birds cheerfully chirp away as they build a nest in a nearby tree. Note that by planting this tree you are doing Good. And now, because you’ve done this good, life is going to benefit from it. Then go on and do some more good. And some more.
If nothing else, sit on a park bench.
Listen to the story nature tells and learn from the lesson it teaches.