by Josh Hughes
Even though I am unskilled in the work of yard maintenance (and highly allergic to many of the raw materials involved in said work), it is one of my favorite pastimes. I derive great joy (perhaps too much) from being able to stand back after a few hours’ labor and survey the fruits of the battle waged against high-grown grass, nuisance weeds, and intrusive branches. There is a feeling of great satisfaction that I believe harkens back to my hunter-gatherer, dominion-taker roots. It’s primal, but not in a weird way.
Something I’ve been trying to do lately as I execute my weekly-ish yard work is take time to remember the goodness of God that’s displayed in nature. I don’t want to be unmoved by what’s awesome or disinterested by what’s fascinating. There is a perfect, divine design in creation that pleads with us to bear witness to skilled craftsmanship of its creator.
Have you been amazed by creation lately? Can I invite you to be amazed right now? Consider photosynthesis, something you probably haven’t thought about since elementary school. In order to refresh your memory about this incredible process, I asked Jeff Main, elder, forester, theologian and arborist par excellence to explain the science behind it. Here’s what he said:
“Photosynthesis works as follows: Within each leaf are millions of cells; within each cell are millions of chloroplasts; within each chloroplast are hundreds of layers of chlorophyll. Water is taken up by the plant and stored around the layers of chlorophyll. Sunlight hits the chlorophyll, giving off energy, which uses that energy to break down the water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is expelled and the hydrogen combines with carbon compounds from carbon dioxide the plant has already breathed in to form carbohydrate in the form of sugar, which is then consumed by the plant.”
How crazy is that? Plants take the carbon dioxide we exhale and turn it into oxygen for us to inhale. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “a mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as ten people inhale in a year." And why do these processes continue to happen all over this world? Because God made it that way (Genesis 1:11).
Or we could go big-picture: when was the last time you thought about the fact that the earth rotates around the sun perfectly tilted on its axis to create environmental conditions conducive to life? Not only that, but the path of its orbit doesn’t bring us too close to the sun (and cause us to burn) or take us too far from the sun (and cause us to freeze). Life has been sustained all over the globe for millennia because the earth has maintained its tilt and its orbit. And why? Because Jesus holds everything together (Colossians 1:17).
It’s not quite summer yet, and the mornings are still a little bit cool, and it’s still pretty nice to be outside. Can I offer a suggestion? Some day this week, leave your phone at home and take a walk in the cool of the morning (as I am writing this, my phone tells me the temperature at 8:00am on Saturday should be a brisk 63 degrees - that seems like a good time). As you walk, breathe in; inhale some of some of that God-given, plant-processed oxygen, take in the beauty of God’s creation and rejoice in His works.
And better still, as you exhale, remember that as stunning as the beauty and wonder of creation is, it’s just an echo from the future world. It’s the faintest whisper, a foretaste of the land that is to come. What’s waiting for us in the new heavens and the new earth, the world that is our true home, will absolutely knock us over.
I can’t put it any better than Jack Miller did:
“The verdant land is singing the praises of its Maker, and so shall we in fullness when Jesus brings in the big springtime of His new world. This old world is such a mess when you get to know it: so much hatred in it, so much revenge, so much greed, and an almost endless supply of human foolishness. It makes it a mystery that we mortals cling to it with such strong fingers when we are really holding onto a winter’s fog, mist, damp rot, and mud. Lord, give me a longer view. Help me to see springtime in Your return. Help me to long for the green land to come!” -- Jack Miller, in a letter to his daughter. Recorded in The Heart of a Servant Leader
This week I’m praying that you and I would enjoy the verdant land that’s ours today, and long for the green land to come. It’s closer than we realize.