Nature & hope

When Warren and I do chores together, we usually have company. When we’re watering the plants in the summer, the bushes beg for water and then thank Warren for leaving the hose with them longer than he had planned to.

Warren looks directly at a bush. “You’re welcome.” He smiles.

Sometimes the bushes argue about who gets the hose first, and Warren urges them to share, and to wait their turns.

“Make the bushes talk, Dad.” Sometimes I forget.

The turtles talk a lot, too. So do my hands, for that matter, each morning at the bus stop. The left hand is the friendly scratch hand, but the right hand is the evil brain sucker that tries to steal Warren’s brain just before he’ll need it at school.

I remember bawling three years ago, about an hour after Warren and I had been watering flowers (and the day after Warren had me become the voice of the cottage cheese). Of course – it all talks! And if nature talks, it really talks. No more scripts. It was time for me to follow Warren.

I had always enjoyed the woods and the shore and had often felt God’s presence with me there, but nature had always been only a sign of God’s glory. I had given nature a script which it had dutifully followed, one that I had memorized out of the Psalms: “The heavens declare the glory of God…”

Then I had a two-year identity crisis and it changed the world. It even changed glory and heaven. I guess I had to take off some layers to understand what nature and people and heaven and hope really might be.

For most of my life I thought hope was in the future. But my crisis stripped hope of its future and left it bare and shivering in the present. Let it suffer – it’s all the suffering I’ve got.

In this present body we groan, yearning to be covered… (2 Corinthians – REB)

All the hope I have is inside me now. All the hope I have is in you and in the bushes and in the wind. Do I see the image of God in people and in nature? Do I hear the groaning, the cheering, the weeping and laughter?

American evangelical Christianity seems to react to anything that hears the rocks and the trees. Sure, Adam got a commission, but it wasn’t for strip mining. It was to take care. He got to know his friends well enough to name them long before he had any human contact. God or Adam or somebody even wanted to see if the beasts and birds were enough, or wanted to see if Adam thought they were enough. But it is never enough. Nature stood as naked and as hopeful as Adam.

The created universe is waiting with eager expectation for God’s sons to be revealed. . . . [T]he whole created universe in all its parts groans as if in the pangs of childbirth. (Romans – REB)

Sure, there’s an order to the resurrection: Christ, then us, then the rest of nature. But if Christ and nature are not in me, I have nothing to give birth to, and I have no hope. How does Paul put it? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If God is not in me, I carry no seed; I am sterile and will produce nothing in this life or the next.

What do I think or do or hear or see that’s born of pain and doom and hope and God?

Why are we afraid of Darwin, of Buddha, of Native American religions, or of anybody who listens better than we? Why are we afraid of the groaning of our own bodies? We’re afraid of a crisis and of a conversion that would open up nature like a clearing night sky.

Posted June 2005