Hope is so important right now. We can’t fall into this idea that the world is falling apart, that it’s broken, that there is no hope in the world or in one another. It’s unhealthy. It’s not true. For every person throwing stones at birds, there are thousands who would never dream of throwing stones at birds. And a hundred more working to save the birds. It’s just that the stone throwers are louder and when we’re in despair, we’re more likely to believe that everyone is a stone thrower.
Hope is a skill. Hope is a call. Hope is work. Hope is practice.
This week, we’ll speak of hope as resilience and resilience as a reason for hope. This is one of Jane Goodall’s reasons for Hope in The Book of Hope, which is part of our inspiration for this month’s Reflections.
When we talk to people these days, we often hear that people find their faith, spirituality, and God (often given the title of The Universe) in nature. That people don’t need church because nature is the temple. We could argue that God needs a home in the church. We could argue that our spiritual needs include the need for the sacred space of sacred communities. We could argue about where God is found…and not found. We could argue the opposites. We could argue that God is nature and solitude. We could argue until eternity around where we differ in faith and belief. We could argue, strive, and fight to be right.
We could also agree that God is found in those quiet places of nature and in solitude. We could agree that God is found in the church (temple, mosque, etc.) and in community. Instead of looking for where we diverge, we could look for where we connect. Because that is the human choice in all of this. To argue or look for the common connections.
Yes, of course God is found in nature and in Creation. In the plants. In the trees. In the dirt. In the mushrooms. In the sky. In the stars. It’s all part of the big Mystery. Just thinking of these places can bring us to a still, quiet point that brings us closer to Grace.
Why do we find such a deep connection with Nature? It is our first gift from God. It is our first work given to us by God. To tend and to care for the Garden and her creatures. We are made of the dust of the earth. We are a part of this great Creation of those first days. Of course we find this deep connection to Nature, Creation, and the Garden. Of course we would find Grace in the Garden.
There is also something deeply nourishing and healing in nature. So much so that science tells us to spend more time in nature to reconnect to the healing gifts offered (if you don’t have five minutes to spend in nature each day, then spend twenty minutes in nature each day). To reconnect to the rhythms of the Universe, of Grace. There are connections between trees and plants that we never imagined being discovered and uncovered. There is great Mystery in the gift of Creation and we’re a part of it. We belong to and with nature and the Mystery. We’re intricately connected to it.
There is amazing resilience in Nature. A resilience that is echoed in us. Perhaps it’s even an echo of the bigger Mystery itself. And resilience is a reason for hope.
Nature teaches us resilience in the bleakest of times.
Nature teaches us that in the brokenness, we do not need to fall into despair.
Nature teaches us to Hope.
We find this in the old stories. The resilience of nature in the face of destruction. Hope in resilience. It’s found in the story of Noah and the Ark. A story we seemed to have passed on to the children, perhaps because we don’t want to face the bleakness of the story. That God has given up on his Creation. Completely given up. That humankind seems past all redemption and must be destroyed. Completely destroyed. And with it, the whole world. Everything.
There is despair and hopelessness. And yet there is the plan and follow through of hope. A plan for an Ark and the animals two by two. Animals and nature again tended by human hands. It’s a hard story to imagine ourselves in. Noah. His wife. The animals. And the complete and utter destruction of everything and everyone.
The waiting. The waiting. The entanglement of despair and hope in waiting. We’ve been there. Waiting when everything seems doomed. When we seem to be going in the wrong direction. When it seems we can’t change or fix anything.
But then, the rain ceases. It always does.
When the destruction is complete, there is the resilience of nature and hope in the dove and the olive sprig. Hope and Peace. A rainbow. Promise.
In the destruction of nature, it takes very little time for nature to recover. With a little nudge and help, a single person can save a species from extinction or protect a tiny plot of land. With a little nudge, a single destroyed tree can be nursed back to life. A clear cut forest will begin to grow and rebound. A burnt savanna will begin to grow within days. A thousand year old seed nurtured will sprout into a tree.
In utter destruction, nature rebounds.
Perhaps we resonate with Nature, the Garden, so much because it reminds us of our own resilience. Possibility. In nature and within us. Our own ability to heal and grow and evolve. Our own resilience in impossible circumstances. With the help of nature, the church, love, and one another we can build and rebuild and strengthen hope.
Perhaps the resilience of natures reminds us that we choose between giving up or resilience.
The stories of new growth in the midst of utter destruction reminds us that we too can rebuild from utter destruction. In all the messiness that comes with all our dreams and hopes and building, that we can learn.
The resilience of the Garden and the new garden promised in a dove, a sprig of olive, and a rainbow connects us to one another and deeply to God. These gifts of nature are the gifts of Grace if we only slow down to sense it. The promise of resilience gives us something to hope for. Hope as a plan and a goal. Hope as action. And a reminder that our teeny tiny actions…matter and build hope and resilience.
There is the echo of the Cross in the Ark. In the utter destruction of the world, that nature has resilience and therefor there is hope for peace and love. That in the utter destruction of the Christ, that humankind has resilience and therefor there is hope for peace and love.