Creation Care is not just about caring for the earth. Creation Care is also about us. It is about you and me. We are part of creation. We need to be nourished by the very earth for which we are to exercise care. I cannot think of anything that is more important for us to do during these angry and anxious times than to do the work of self care, and not neglect it because we are too busy with the things at hand.
As I look about and as I talk with people, be they in our presbytery or in the community at large, I see them feeling anxious, uncertain and greatly stressed. Still they go on doing the things they are called to do and need to do. Yet much of this work is done with an overlay of anxiousness, stress and fatigue.
I have been a member of this presbytery for over 35 years. I cannot remember a time when people were so stressed and so undernourished. These are difficult times. Many people are struggling to keep churches going or in some cases to just keep them open. The stresses and divisions of our society at this time weigh heavily upon us. They remind me of an earlier time of the civil rights struggles of the 60’s and the anguished years of Vietnam. Today we are in another period of struggle with different ideologies seeking to be victorious.
So what are we to do?
There are no easy answers, but that does not mean there are no answers.
Where do we a start? My mind keeps turning to Martin Buber and his book “I Thou” in which Buber talks about I-It relationships and I-Thou relationships. The title of the book itself is a piece of the answer for our stressed and anxious times and in our struggles for what we want to come out of these times.
In an I-It relationship people are seen as objects in our world. In an I-Thou relationship people are seen as persons. They are people with souls. They are people with hopes and fears, accomplishments and failures, people who are a mix of good and the not so good. However, living out of an “I-Thou” relationship is next to impossible until we ourselves are fed and renewed.
And how do we do that?
We do have a treasure to help us. It is our little red covered book the “Book of Common Worship – Daily Prayer.” There is also an app for Daily Prayer which makes it very portable and accessible. I find that starting the day with coffee and silent contemplation of the readings has a way of speaking and feeding me, especially the Psalms. Sitting in silence with the Word on a consistent basis feeds our soul. God speaks to us through God’s Word.
Some time ago National Public Radio had a segment about meditation and its power to literally rewire the brain. People were given brain wave tests. During times of contemplation certain parts of the brain would light up showing brain activity. Meditation done over a period of time gave evidence of positive changes in the brain. It reminds me of St. Paul’s teaching, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..” (Romans 12:2) For this to happen we need to sit with the text long enough so the text is no longer an “It” but is a “Thou”, a “Thou” through which the Spirit itself speaks an inward word which is insightful and transforming.
Spending time with the Good Book & the Book of Nature
Another way that the Spirit speaks to us is through the contemplation of creation itself. As we spend time immersed in the Word so too we need to spend time immersed in creation, or what is sometimes referred to as the Natural World. Exposure to the beauty of the natural world calms and feeds us.
Time spent with “The Good Book” and the “Book of Nature” brings healing. It connects us to what Thomas Merton speaks of as “our true self”. By living out of this “true self”, which is rooted and grounded in the God’s gifts of Word and Nature, we will be fed and transformed so we rise above the anxiousness, anger and alienation of our time.
By reducing our stress we help reduce the stress around us
Spending time in contemplation of the Word and in contemplation of nature are ways in which we are fed. Being fed we will be in a better frame of mind and therefore have a better chance of seeing another person as a “Thou” and not an “It”.
That will go a long way to reduce our stress. In turn, we are able to reduce the stress around us and, hopefully, in the larger world in which we live. You have a better chance of “loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself”, if you come out of a place of fullness and renewal, rather than out of emptiness, anger and anxiety.
Creation Care is not just about caring for the earth; creation care is also about us. It is about you and me. We are part of creation. We need to be fed and nourished through time spent with the Good Book and the Book of Nature. In doing so we will be transformed and better able to be a peaceful and healing presence in an anxious and angry world.