Spiritual Disciplines: Guidelines to reorient your relationship with nature
If we are to care for creation, we need to cultivate our relationship with nature. Here are some ideas and resources to do that.
1. Know that earth is full of God’s glory. Just as you may see God in the faces of others, so also see God in the presence of other living things.
2. De-center yourself and other humans by thinking of your property or your neighborhood as a piece of earth you share with other living things. How can you get to know the trees and bushes and flowers and animals to see yourself as part of earth community? A good source is Anthony Westin, Back to Earth: Tomorrow’s Environmentalism (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994).
3. Look to nature as a source of renewal. There is a therapy designed to bring human wholeness and healing through a relationship with the rest of nature. See Eco-Therapy by Howard Clinebell (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994) and Reconnecting with Nature by Michael Cohen (Lakeville: Ecopress, 2007). The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv names the loss of a connection with nature as “nature deficit disorder.” Books in your local library will identify ways to restore your connection.
4. Let all creation praise God. The Bible says that the seas are to “roar” and the tress “clap their hands” and the fields “exult.” Next time you worship, think of the earth around you as the sanctuary in which you are worshiping and imagine yourself part of an Earth community that is praising God by their existence.
5. Spend time with nature. Take some time each day to be present with trees and animals. Look at them carefully, listen to the sounds of life around you, appreciate them, and love them. Recognize the interrelationship you have with others in earth community and give thanks.
6. Stop to think about the ways your daily decisions affect the life around you: lawn care, car emissions, furnace emissions, waste, and so on. Seek to change decisions that generate a harmful impact on life around you.
7. Pay special care to life in your home—pets and plants. Imagine what you might need to do to care for all plants and animals in your arena of life in the same way. We take care of our cars but we love our children. Let’s love nature as we love our family.
8. Pray for the life of nature. Intercede especially for endangered species. Know that God cares for all of life and has created the world so as to “provide [animals] their food in due season.”
9. Eat your food with care. Be grateful that you are fortunate to have food. In your table blessing, pray not just about the food “for our use” but pray that plants and animals may thrive for their own sake and be treated with care.
10. Recognize that you are nature—a mammal, a higher primate, sharing much of the same gene pool, depending on the rest of nature for life and breath, and thoroughly embedded in creation as a whole. Know you kinship with the community of life.