Why Nature Matters
I’ve been riveted, hidden in a nature blind with my grandmother watching peregrine falcons hurtle down from the heavens at over 200 miles an hour. I’ve been delighted at neon pink and purple sea slugs 80 feet underwater.
I’ve been charmed watching cardinals feed each other berries. I’ve been thrilled witnessing falling stars.
I’ve been surprised by seals joining me while paddleboarding. I’ve been thunderstruck at the immensity and power of downpours in an Australian rain forest. I’m constantly amazed and delighted by all that goes on in this gorgeous world made by God.
And I believe God wants us to notice it all.
You don’t have to go white-water rafting, scuba diving, backpacking, or traveling to distant countries. You can step outside your backdoor. Just sitting there every morning with your cup of coffee for five minutes will enlighten you tremendously.
You will begin to notice things. What birds are hanging around? What did the frost do to the daffodils beginning to emerge? Are there any gophers digging up the lawn? What flowers do the snails prefer to eat? What direction does the wind usually come from? And many other nuances of nature.
Just step outside, notice, and delight in the “good” that God is doing.
In the beginning, while He made the world, repeatedly we read the phrase, “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1). After each step, He is pleased and calls it “good.” I imagine, in a small way, it’s like when we do something well. You nailed that birthday party. You figured out how to fix something. You created a meal or a painting, and it turned out well. You know it, and you are pleased. Although with Him, it is not only “good.” It is perfect and beautiful.
The world He has made is His first revelation of Himself, of His character, and of His design sense, and is a reflection of what He delights in. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
God’s divine nature is clearly seen through the beauty, wonder, and science of what He has made. And we do well to ponder it.
David writes, “when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindul of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
God’s handiwork is not only beautiful, it’s healthful. It is good for us. Good for us to live in, eat from, and delight in. In Florence William’s fascinating book The Nature Fix, she describes what walking in nature does for our bodies and minds. According to the latest findings in science, just walking in nature for around 30-45 minutes alone (preferably in evergreen woods and/or near running water or the ocean) has a similar effect on our systems as a daily antidepressant ill. Also, being in nature elevates our NK (natural killer) cells to ward off disease.
So how can we become more at home in nature and derive its benefits for ourselves and our families more often? It doesn’t take much. You don’t have to climb Everest, start backpacking every weekend, or travel to exotic locations. Just step outside. Maybe get a bird feeder and watch the birds. Learn what foods they like, what size birdhouses they need.
Try to grow something. Sunflowers are easy. Walk the dog around the area. Notice the sounds, the sights. Is it always windy in the afternoon? From what direction does the wind blow? Step outside at night. Can you see the stars? Can you spot the constellation of Orion? Maybe you can ride a bike with the family after dinner. Maybe on the weekends you can go to an area to hike or stroll. Find a place with tree stumps, or a creek, or wildflowers.
We need to fall back in love with and delight iin God’s handiwork and discover His heart in it. The more you learn about the amazing things He has done, the more you want to learn and enjoy them. Ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau said, “We protect what we love.”
I remember the day my son was born. I held him in my arms with all that mama bear love gushing through my system and, with tears running down my face, I said to my husband, “I would jump in front of a train for this child.”
We protect what we love.
I want everyone, particularly those who call themselves Christians, to fall so in love with this amazing, breathtaking world that you want to explore it and protect it. I want you to discover so many cool scientific and spiritual truths from nature that you want to share them with others. Then they too will fall in love with this world and want to safeguard it.
You are not alone. The more I interview people, read, and research, the more I realize there is a groundswell of quiet nature lovers. You may not be hugging trees or marching in the streets, but you care deeply about this beautiful world. you care about its health and the health of your family and future generations. You are part of a growing tribe of nature enthusiasts who realize it’s important and life giving to get outside.
I’ve seen things deep underwater that most people in the world will never see, like those neon pink sea slugs. Why did He do this? If hardly anyone was going to see it, why not make it gray and functional? He did it because it delights Him. He did it because He values what He makes.
And if He values all the tiny creatures in the Amazon rain forest and deep under the oceans, so should we. We have the erroneous notion about what the Genesis directive of dominion and stewardship means. Think of what dominion and stewardship mean in your relationship with your children. It means not poisoning them, not harming them for financial gain, not doing things that would stunt their growth. It’s not too hard a concept to grasp, right?
Spending time in nature is healing. It can draw you closer to the creative heart of God. It can help anxiety. It can help ADHD. It can give you a new perspective.
Spending time outside is good for your insides.
It’s not wonder that Beethoven, Einstein, and Steve Jobs all took long walks outside. It quieted their minds and fueled their creativity. In 1910, hiker and philosopher John Muir noted that we were a “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.” We need to connect with nature now more than ever.
“We are a tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.”
I want you to get outside more. You don’t have to run a half marathon or become master gardeners. Just step outside your backdoor. I want you to have clean air to breathe, clean rivers and lakes and oceans for you and your children and grandchildren to play in. I want you to be able to look up at night and see the wondrous stars and spot the constellations. I want you to be able to pick out a deciduous tree from an evergreen. I want you to know a cardinal from a crow. I want you to be able to identify at least two different bird songs. I want you to hear the roar of the wind in the forest and the peaceful lap of pond water on the side of a boat.
I want you to thrill at the sight of a bear, bobcat, or banana slug. I want you to step outside and find the heart o fGod in nature. He spoke the world into existence and He continues to speak through His creation. He’s there. He’s everywhere. Just step outdoors, breathe deep, and fall in love with this outside life.
This is an excerpt from my new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature. Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or wherever you like to buy books.