Photo by Roman Klaptocz
Forget the To-Do List:
Transform Your Heart
“OK. I get it. The earth is in trouble and I understand the biblical call to care for creation. But what can I do? Where do I start?”
If this resonates with you, take heart—you are in good company. It is one of the most common questions I am asked in my work with A Rocha.
If you’re looking for a laundry list beginning with “Recycle” and ending with “Buy a hybrid car,” you will be disappointed with what follows. Don’t get me wrong, recycling is essential and recycling facilities are expanding in both rural and urban areas. Hybrid cars are also a great idea, though I recognize they’re not within everyone’s budget. So then what?
The most important actions we take stem from the heart and in my experience, seldom do “lists” move our hearts to transformation. So instead of a list, think of what follows as a set of practices that might move our hearts into deeper love for God and for God’s world.
Begin in prayer. You might pray, “Lord, how are you calling me to care for your creation in my day-to-day life? Where might I begin?”
If you start there, the following suggestions will fall into their appropriate places and you can begin to discern, alongside your family and church community, the best way forward based on your unique circumstances, gifts, and limitations.
“So what can I do?” Here are three practices to consider.
1. Cultivate wonder and gratitude for the goodness of God in creation.
Even though we face great challenges ecologically, we still daily wake and sleep in a world that is satisfied and sustained by the goodness of God. "The Earth is the Lord’s!" It’s all too easy to overlook this fact when we’ve discovered the oceans are acidifying and the soils are depleting. But this remains fundamental to our existence and we must daily orient ourselves to it. As Wendell Berry says, “we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” Our life is sustained entirely by the goodness of God in creation. So first things first: give thanks!
2. Get to know your place in creation.
We don’t just live in “creation” but in a particular place, with particular soils, weather patterns, and a great host of plants and animals that thrive there. Becoming more familiar with this place is essential to caring for it. This may come about as we take a walk in the local park or listen for the return of the songbirds in the spring. Richard Bauckham notes that when Jesus instructed his followers to “look at” the birds of the air and “consider” the lilies of the field, he was inviting them to “attend carefully to some aspect of the natural world with the expectation of learning from it.” We not only learn from it but in attending, we learn about it.
One important thing we learn is to ask better questions about how to care for the natural world around us. What’s the impact of the gravel extraction at the end of that street? What happens when that forest is cut to make way for more subdivisions? What are my neighbours growing in their gardens this year? Observe and ask questions!
3. Connect with others who are already working to care for your place.
It can be so discouraging to see the world’s problems and feel how small are our solutions. The good news is that in every place around the world, there are folks working to effect change on the ground! The best place to start is by looking for folks at work in your watershed. (Think of a watershed as a large bathtub within which all the water that falls gathers together towards a common exit. Every environmental impact—whether positive or negative—affects all of the creatures living in that bathtub.)
Most watersheds have conservation groups at work monitoring and doing restoration projects. Why not attend their next cleanup or event? How much of your food needs can be met by farmers in your watershed? And how do their agricultural practices affect the health of the watershed? What if your church adopted its local watershed, partnered with local environmental projects, gave a portion of its charitable giving towards local habitat restoration efforts, and baptized its members along the banks of the local river? How might that begin to transform our minds and hearts? What opportunities might this present for us to extend Christian hospitality towards those who share our love of creation but may not share our love of the Creator? Working in this way bears witness to the world that God is indeed at work, making all things new! What a privilege that we can participate in this good work. Get out, connect, and get to work!
About A Rocha
A Rocha is an international Christian conservation organization working to show God’s love for all creation. It works out this commitment in nineteen countries around the world through scientific research, environmental education, sustainable agriculture, and hospitality.