On Nature Groaning - Lenten Reflections

Let the field exult, and all that is in it.Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the Lord, for He is coming For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness Psalm 96:12-13

When the earth threw its tectonic fit, the oceans rose to meet the works of our hands. Rising tides crushed ports, flowed through houses, breached the walls of our nuclear facilities. Radiation spilled into fields and retreated into the ocean, contaminated kelp, fish, and produce. In our hubris we believed that we could contain atom-fusing, but concrete and steel are no match for groans birthed in the depths of the ocean. God created the sea to be more powerful and less predictable than we would like.

There is another sea undulating in Northern Africa and the Middle East. This sea of humanity swells as if at high tide. Men in Syria shout for Allah and Freedom, stampede like the bulls in Spain. They pick up rocks and hurl them at the government. The rocks would cry out in praise if given the chance, but wild men have given the stones voices of violence instead. The goats and trees stand in the fields, see a coming war, know that they will be the casualties of it. One olive branch says to the other, “here we go again,” and they brace themselves for destruction at the hands of freedom fighters. The goats have stopped grazing and stand in the fields slack-jawed and innocent. Goats and trees always catch the residual shrapnel.

We were given stewardship of this world, I have read. But I think that in our conquests we have forgotten the value of the good earth around us. The effects of our avarice are apparent, even if accidental. Meltdowns contaminate nature. Wars rip craters into fertile soil and wipe out the wild herds that were created without the capacity for sin. Our lusts contaminate those things that were created to be perfect.

Our sin has consequences.

I am not an environmentalist, per se, but the Lenten Psalms have been thought-provoking. Why do the writers say that the fields will rejoice at Christ’s return? Why will the oceans roar and the sheep dance in the fields at his return? Perhaps the world pines for Christ’s salvation because we, in all of our depravity, have proven wholly incapable of stewarding that which was created holy. Maybe the earth groans as if in labor pains because our sin has impregnated it with the memory of Eden.

And if our sin is that apparent to nature, shouldn't it likewise be apparent to us?

This is a bit of a difficult topic. Some of you may assume that I am an environmentalist, a “give peace a chance” kind of fellah. But the truth is, the language of the Psalms seem terribly relevant in the world in which we live. So let me ask you, why do you think the psalmists personify nature? Why are we told that oceans will roar, rocks cry out, sheep dance? Does it seem more relevant today than ever before?  Am I over-nuancing this whole thing?

These are honest questions, no agenda necessary.


Feel free to flesh this out a bit with me in the comments.  Even if you don't agree or think I'm missing something.  I'd love to sort some of this out.

**photo credit here.