Do you remember what it was like to run through the grass as a child? Or to climb a tree? To chase lightning bugs or butterflies?
I remember a large, double-trunked sycamore tree in the middle of a field behind our house that was blown over by a tornado one summer. The giant tree lay there sideways for months, and was an amazing playground for me. I could swing from limb to limb and leap from one trunk to another like a squirrel, with nary a concern, just laughter and joy.
I also remember a swing someone had hung from a tree limb back in the woods. You could swing out over the little defile that a drainage stream had cut on its way to the local creek, and it felt like soaring over the Grand Canyon. I remember the feel of the coarse rope in my hands and the sound of the wind in my ears and the burst of excitement as the ground dropped away from my feet.
As children, we enjoy things in a way that we often lose as we grow into adults. This is a natural part of maturing and aging. I think if I tried to bounce from tree branch to tree branch now, I’d be lucky if the only result was bruised and sore muscles.
But that loss of enjoyment, particularly of enjoying being out in creation, also causes a loss of intimacy with creation, and with our Creator.
Enjoying something is finding pleasure in its existence and in its interaction with you. You can enjoy a delicious meal as its flavors delight your taste buds. You can enjoy a beautiful painting as its colors pass through your eyes and bring about reactions in your brain. You can enjoy a conversation with an old friend as the sound of their voice resonates against your ear drums and brings to mind events long past. You can enjoy a beautiful sunset as the light washes over you with a feeling of peace and calm.
Real, true enjoyment of anything is a connection between you and the thing that you are enjoying.
Enjoyment is relational.
Enjoyment creates intimacy.
Oftentimes, when you enjoy an experience, you want to experience it again. Taking one bite of a decadent piece of cake makes you want to take another, and another, and another. None of the subsequent bites will be quite like the first, yet each bite is enjoyable. What’s more, each bite brings more familiarity with the cake, and your tongue detects the flavors in more nuanced ways. Every bite of that cake is good, and when the slice is finished, there is a contentedness, a feeling of satisfaction from your enjoyment of the cake.
Now consider the conversation with an old friend. What makes the conversation enjoyable? Obviously, the topics being discussed, the news being shared, the jokes and stories being told. But what is also there is a familiarity, a deep-rooted connection with this other person, a shared past of previous conversations and experiences and shared moments and lives that has built up over time. You have always enjoyed being with your friend, and as your new friend became your old friend that intimacy and that enjoyment grew.
The same is true of our connection with creation. I heard somewhere a few years ago that humans are the first indoor species on this planet. We spend most of our days inside containers of our own building, seeing creation at a distance, through windows or as images on screens.
What a shame that is.
No wonder we feel so disconnected from creation and at a loss as to how to take care of it.
This is why I say that the first thing we must do if we want to care for creation is to enjoy creation. By getting out there and interacting with it, getting our hands and feet dirty, letting the sunshine warm our skin and the breeze blow on our faces, seeing water ripple in streams and squirrels play in trees, hearing birds sing and smelling the fragrant flowers, by enjoying creation, we are deepening our relationship with creation. We become intimate with it, as we do with our friends, knowing their nuances, their quirks, their stories.
This also deepens our relationship with the Creator. God enjoys Creation, describing it as good and pointing to it time and time again to teach us about God’s self. Scripture says that we are God’s children, and what parent does not want to share what they enjoy with their child?
I am a big college basketball fan, and my oldest daughter has taken an interest in watching the games with me. Earlier this year I took her to her first in-person basketball game, and she has talked about it ever since. She wants to go again.
In the same way, we are invited by God to enjoy God’s creation because God enjoys creation. We will all enjoy it in different ways; I love to go on trail runs, which I know many people would hate. I’ve known people who were fascinated by insects, and find enjoyment in learning all they can about the many-legged critters. Plenty of people enjoy gardening, and find joy in blooming flowers and ripening tomatoes. Still others are bird watchers, rock climbers, cross-country skiers, fishers, hunters, boat paddlers, tree enthusiasts, and on and on and on. How you enjoy creation is not nearly as important as that you enjoy creation.
The enjoyment of creation also pushes against the two dangerous teachings I mentioned in the video, that humans can take all they want from creation or that humans should dismiss themselves from creation. An intimate relationship with creation developed through our enjoyment of creation will not let us do either.
That intimate relationship I’m speaking of causes us to care about what happens to the thing we are in relationship with. We will not permit creation to be extracted to death, because we enjoy creation too much, we care about creation too much to let that happen. Nor will we excuse ourselves from creation because, again, we enjoy and care about it too much. As we would not permit harm to befall nor abandon someone we love, and as God has demonstrated the same love toward us, so we love God’s creation.
So, where do you enjoy creation? And how can you enjoy it more?