For much of my life, I based the value of creation on what it had to offer me. I saw it as something to be used at my disposal and discarded at my whim. Beautiful flowers on my table, a day at the beach, skiing down the snowy slopes of a mountain – if I could use it for my benefit, it was good. And I assumed it would be there as long as I needed it. Eventually, this world would pass away, but I would be whisked off to my forever home before that happened so I didn’t need to concern myself with what I’d be leaving behind.
In all honesty, I have seen myself in a similar light. I’ve always had a deep desire to be good that is coupled with a deep fear that I am not good enough. I have seen myself as good only in terms of what I can offer to others. So I strive to help, to achieve, to produce, to fix, to give – hoping that it will prove my worth. I didn’t pay much attention to the cost on my body and my soul because I knew my time on Earth was limited so I needed to do what I could before it was too late.
Somehow slowly over time, I began to understand the truth that we find in Genesis 1 – that I am made in the image of God. Though I’d been taught to believe in original sin and therefore only saw my own brokenness and lack, this truth reminded me of my original goodness. God created humanity in his own image, “and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). I don’t have to earn my value or prove my worth because it has been imbedded within me since my conception.
When I learn to hold that truth for myself, that changes the way that I move throughout this world and interact with those around me. I don’t have to run myself into the ground striving for that unattainable status of “good enough.” Instead, I can root myself in the One who created me and loves me and calls me good, the One who doesn’t see me for my lack but who desires to lead me into wholeness. And from that rooted identity, I can walk forward in the fullness of who God created me to be, playing my part in his work of restoration in the world around me.
When I learn to see myself as inherently good, I learn to see others as good, and I learn to see all of creation as good. Each day as God created, he looked around and saw that it was good. Even before there were people to take advantage of what he had created, it was already good. Creation was good simply because it existed and it had been brought forth in love.
God, in his goodness and grace, decided to share his power and give humans the right and responsibility of dominion over creation. With that power, the temptation from the beginning has been to reach out and grasp what God has created for our own benefit at the expense of others and creation as a whole. We can choose to live in that fallen, distorted manner, or we can choose to reclaim our original identity as humans created in the image of God to steward creation, to bear fruit that lasts, and to work toward the flourishing of all.
As Randy Woodley talks about, the way we rule over creation should reflect the way that God rules. God does not rule by force or solely for his own benefit. God rules as One who co-sustains. God sees that his creation is good, and he invites us to look around and see that it is good as well.
This Earth Day, I invite you to think about how you can care for God’s creation, not as a one-day event but as a way of life. There are so many small changes we can make to care for creation. We cannot do it all, but we can do something. What is one step you can take to start or continue living more sustainably?
Here are some ideas…
Reduce your use of plastic
Use reusable water bottles, containers, and bags
Reduce your meat and fish consumption
Reduce food waste
Buy used items when possible
Use natural cleaning products, soaps, toiletries, etc.
Use tree-free or 100% recycled paper products
Plant trees, flowers, and food-producing plants
Collect shower/bath water to water plants
Download Flourish: An Introduction to Sustainable Living from Tearfund USA for more information on creation care and ideas for sustainable living.