This year, more than most, I feel closer to nature and the changing seasons. It was just about a year ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, I started my long daily walks. It was also the beginning of spring and those vibrant changes filled me with hope. Since I’ve walked pretty much the same route for a year now, I’ve had a front row seat watching creation change and grow. I’ve witnessed the unfolding of nature giving birth to new life, which has been transforming for me. I’ve been committed to walking no matter the weather. Some days were wet and windy and, thus, far less enjoyable, but walking is helpful for my mental health, not just a means of exercise. Walking clears my head and helps me process whatever I’m facing. Like most people, a year ago, I was facing the fear of the unknown pandemic. I was not able to go into school for my job, I couldn’t see my own kids except on Zoom, church was online and I spent long days alone in my small apartment. Walking was such a gift for me and observing creation taught me many valuable lessons. Maybe you have learned them too?
First, of course, the cyclical gift of nature teaches us that life will continually be renewed. The tiny buds I rejoiced seeing last March became the blossoms and leaves of May and finally, the dried leaves crunching under my feet in October. The very same leaves! Now as I study the nearby trees and shrubs for new buds, I know the gift of new life is just there, deep in the branches, ready to burst forth and begin the cycle all over again. This year promises new life for us humans, too. I feel such hope in the vaccines and fact that things are slowly (hopefully safely) coming to life. Our students will return to full in-school learning in March. That brings new challenges, but also new life. The school will be vibrant with children’s voices. It’s a new season this March and I welcome it.
Another thing I’ve witnessed on my walks has been the paradox of nature. One day it was gently snowing and yet the sun was out! Sun and snow sharing the same sky over the Treasure Valley! It reminded me of the paradox of life on this planet—how we can feel both happy and sad (I feel so happy for Pastor Gretchen and her retirement, and yet so sad that she will no longer be our Pastor). We can feel excited and anxious at the same time, paradoxically, too (the aforementioned full school reopening). We can feel conflicting emotions that throw us for a loop, like deep love and yet frustration with a loved one or fear coming out as anger for a situation we cannot change. Our emotions can seem as paradoxical and strange as snow falling on a sunny day. And yet, they are all part of the way our Creator fashioned us.
Our church communities are changing and growing too. One day we will be able to meet in person again and I look forward to that! I think we will see we have grown as individuals and that will reflect new growth in our communities as well. We will have new appreciation for gathering with one another after such a long time apart. We may see each other as new and renewed, as fresh buds on a March tree. We will be grateful to be together and vow to never take attending worship together for granted again! Our interconnected communities reflect the interconnectedness of creation. We need each other to travel along this road of life. As the elements of nature complement each other and serve each other, that is what we are called to do as communities of Christ. If we have learned anything through this time of isolation, hopefully, we have learned to appreciate our communities and our interconnectedness with each other.
Finally, I have learned watching nature that God is glorified by creation as it just does what it does. The human species tends to complicate this much more because we can, but if you’ve ever watched a bee buzzing from flower to flower or a squirrel building a nest, you see that in the bee buzzing and the squirrel building, God is glorified. God has created us all to live together as the outpouring of God. We, too, give glory to God by celebrating the grace of being human. Jesus became human and it is a wonderful gift to be human! Our living and loving together gives God glory. It is good to be human and take our place in the beauty of creation. We have more responsibility as caretakers of creation, to be sure. But we can also revel in the fact that we are part of an awesome universe that is continually growing and expanding. The cycle of creation is alive and well. “Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God.” And that is a wonderful thing.
Gracious God, outpourer of all things visible;
We come to you just as the earth is slowly beginning to awaken from a long winter’s rest. Help us to see and welcome the rhythms of the seasons as visible signs of your presence with us. Help us to relish each new bud and blade and see you renewing and refreshing all of your creation—including us! Amen