Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for his is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
by Jennifer Lucking
As part of my role as Coordinator of Human Trafficking Outreach, I represent the Reformed Church in America at the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Justice and Peace. As a social justice activist, I am familiar with many of the topics we discuss around the table. That is, until the time comes to discuss action around creation care and climate and environmental justice. Don’t get me wrong: I recycle and compost and make sure not to litter with the best of them. But when it comes to advocacy and action around climate and environmental justice, I’m out of my realm of knowledge and expertise. (As an aside, that’s why I love ecumenical work, because where the RCA lacks in action around these issues, I have the absolute pleasure of learning from others who are doing incredible work around environmental justice. But I digress.)
Not only am I not well versed on environmental justice issues, but up until a year ago I hated gardening. Growing up, my two siblings and I were assigned a garden each to weed throughout the summer, and I remember whining and complaining when it came time for this chore. Just when I thought I had picked all the weeds, I would spot another and another. The only fond thing I remember of that garden was a large lilac tree, now one of my favourite plants with its fragrant blossoms (though the tulip is still my favourite flower because, you know, I’m a good Dutch girl).
Two years ago, my husband and I moved to a house on an acre and a half of property. Our 1860’s farm house has gardens wrapped around the front porch. Surprising myself, I took delight during our first spring and summer eagerly awaiting to see what was planted, what would grow with the changing seasons, and discovering how I could add to the beauty by adding new flowers and taking time to water and fertilize its blooms. Gardening is now one of my favourite self care activities: the physical work, the peace I find in the space, and taking joy in being part of God’s creation.
My daughter, who will be three years old this December, takes incredible delight in flowers and plants. I will never forget the look of amazement on her face the first time she smelled rosemary. We cannot pass the florist section of a supermarket without her insisting to smell the flowers. When it comes to the flowers in my own garden–ones I have lovingly and laboriously planted–I often warn her “Be careful! Be gentle!” (Once she responded with the attitude only a toddler–or perhaps a teenager in training–can exude “I’m just smelling them!”)
In these moments, I better understand the concept of “creation care.” How much more must God care for his creation than we care for it? When we harm God’s creation–our planet and all that is within it including each other–does God long to plead with us “Be careful! Be gentle!” like my own reaction to my daughter? My pleas to my daughter translates into “Respect and appreciate the work and love I have put into this sacred space.” How much more than this God must desire for us to care for all he has created.
In what ways do you have a new perspective for what God sees when he looks at his creation? Perhaps, like me, it’s when you look at your children. For me, being a “child of God” (1 John 3:1) took on incredible new meaning and understanding when I became a mother myself. When my daughter was a newborn, I remember being emotional at the thought that God’s love for me was even greater and purer than that I have for my child. I take such delight in her beauty, in her compassion for others, in her intelligence (I could go on, but I’m biased) and I’ve caught myself reflecting “Wow…How much more must God delight in all his created children.” Likewise, the care and concern I have for my small garden only provides me a glimpse of how God sees all of creation.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31a
Like me, perhaps you see God’s grand creation–the world, the stars, the universe–in a new light and perspective when you see something as small as your own garden. Perhaps it’s when you care for animals, or your aging parents, or those in your own congregation, or when you see the product of your own handiwork or artistry, travel to a new country with varying landscapes, or witness another sunrise or sunset.
Sometimes finding joy in creation can come easily. But sometimes finding joy in God’s creation is hard. I take joy in my garden in the spring and summer. But just because I am Canadian doesn’t mean that I take joy in snow during the winter…And finding joy in creation (or created beings) when it has been marred by sin can be difficult. Sometimes finding joy amongst sickness, hurt relationships, or with those whose beliefs fundamentally differ from yours takes prayer, intentionality, and grace.
This week, may I encourage you to continue gazing upon that which you find beautiful, and reflect on the Saviour’s joy in his creation. And may I also encourage you to intentionally gaze upon that which is hard and difficult–whether it be situations, responsibilities or persons–and intentionally practice joy and grace.
You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6
(By the way, I still do not enjoy weeding.)
Jennifer Lucking serves as a Mission Co-Worker with the Reformed Church in America’s Global Mission in partnership with the Regional Synod of Canada. In her role as Coordinator of Human Trafficking Outreach, she engages with congregations, groups, and individuals to equip and mobilize them in channeling their concerns for modern day slavery, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. She lives in the “Great White North,” in southern Ontario with her husband, daughter, and a smattering of pets.