I am no tree hugger. But the earth has had its woes, thanks to us humans.
I was watching a science fiction show recently and the crew of the ship headed to Mars had to stop watering their plants to conserve water. Suddenly, it was so powerful how much it means to have plants and vegetation for our well-being.
Why is that?
Why has modern science proven what God built into our DNA: We are meant to be healed by nature? I read an article recently on the benefits of “forest bathing” — essentially immersing yourself in the woods, in the vegetation and environment of a forest, letting it saturate the senses.
There’s great research that shows how spending time in nature can improve mental and overall health. This piece here is a great example, with lots of legitimate research cited. Here are a few takeaways:
- Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.
- Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort. (I believe this genetic programming is what God put in Adam and Eve originally, and it’s been passed through all humans for all time)
- In one study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.
- Time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger world.
There is a ubiquitous amount of research proving over and over the benefits and healing powers of being in nature. God’s Creation.
And, no, I do not believe the Creation we see now is what God meant our world to be. Not when “Since the start of 2020, it’s estimated that fires have burnt through 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of the Russian landscape, which is an area bigger than Greece, and about 10.9 million hectares (27 million acres)”1 Not when I come across a photo of a predatory bird about to eat a parakeet. Or countless other morbid examples of death and destruction even in the midst of stunning beauty found in a landscape or a mountain valley or a sunset along a beach to melt the heart.
So, yes, I found myself standing outside my house on our side deck next to our lilac bush, empty of leaves and long ago any delicate buds with their exquisite scent reminding me of my childhood. It was stark and ugly. Right next to the lone aspen tree with an entire vertical section dead as of this past year with one single angled branch losing its leaves in the wind.
It’s not their fault they die. It’s our fault. We humans wrecked it for them. They were supposed to grow from an earth covered not in God’s curse, but his blessing and pronouncement of “good” on Day 3. Can you imagine soil so blessed, anything that gets planted there, just grows? No weeds. No invasive species. No animals or insects devouring its life. Just wonderfully uninhibited and perfect growth to keep the ecosystem balanced.
What I love to think about when I am in a forest or meadow, is how even though God cursed the earth because of Adam and Eve’s decision to listen to the snake — the blessing still has power.
After doing all of his work of creating, we read in verse 31: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”
The Very Good of Day 6 is still good this very day. Trees still grow. Crops still come out of the ground. Fruit is still to be had from trees, vines, and bushes with their wonderfully fragrant blossoms every spring. I can still walk in a lush green valley of river grasses in the high country of Colorado where I live.
The curse caused thorns to form on rose stems.
The curse allowed for devastating hurricanes to decimate and destroy whole cities and landscapes.
The curse causes an entire region of a continent to become a sandy and nearly lifeless desert.
When I hike here in Colorado and look into the woods around me, I see conspicuous evidence of the curse with trees decaying on the ground, trunks shattered from a lightning strike or windstorm.
I guess it remains a choice, of whether I am going to pay attention to the curse of death so easy to spot or recall a place in our ancient (but not forgotten) past when the earth was pristine and perfect. It was willing, able, and ready to produce abundance for the inhabitants meant to multiply everywhere.
Our Story, which began so promising and perfect — rich in potential for an abundance the likes of which we can barely imagine — is about to have its do-over. Earth 2.0 will burst upon the Creation scene of our universe when God doesn’t just bless the ground, he is with us on that ground! Our planet in that day will be made new, to be filled and perfectly balanced with abundance and life, joy and happiness, worship and praise to our Creator.
May that day be soon.