Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

"It can't be true!," said the forest.

(The forest ecosystem itself is a Wild Neighbor worthy of our respect, love and kindness)
God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Maybe you’ve heard that statement. Maybe a friend, a family member or even a complete stranger has thought to share that platitude with you. 

Some say it makes sense because if we are given more than we can handle then its because it wasn’t from God.

Okay let’s get philosophical for a moment.

What’s from God and what’s not from God? 

If God is love then it sounds like it should be pretty simple to figure out, but there are situations where making that determination is impossible.

What about ticks that carry Lyme disease? 

A thematic interpretation of chapter 1 of the book of Genesis suggests that like all other creatures, the tick is somehow inherently good because “when God looked upon all that God had made, God saw that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

The author of the Gospel According to John, who understands Christ to be fully-God, puts it like this:
“God created everything through Christ, and nothing was created except through Christ.” (John 1:3)

  • including ticks.
  • including tectonic plates that move continents and cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunami’s.
  • including wind and weather that cause tornadoes and hurricanes.

It’s easier for most of us to accept the statement that everything God made is good, when looking at a happy baby, a puppy, or a cotton candy colored sky over placid water.

The statement, God won’t give you more than you can handle is easy to consider when things seem to be going well; when job, family, house and health are all in good order. 

But when the storms of live rage on the high seas and in the human heart it doesn’t jive with reality.
God won’t give you more than you can handle.

  • Say it to a mother who just lost a child.
  • Say it to the friend who recently received a diagnosis of stage four lung cancer.
  • Say it to the survivor of a loved one’s suicide.
  • Say it to the members of a community that’s been ravaged by a hurricane that will take decades to recover from.

Say it- and if we are in tune with reality- we realize that statement- God won’t give you more than you can handle- is a big fat lie that should never be repeated.

Every day there are people who deal with more than they can handle and if God is all-powerful then we have to admit that God allows for us to be given more than we can handle.

 God allows for us to be given more than we can handle

The implications of this truth expand beyond the scope of human society.

  • Would you say God won’t give you more than you can handle to our wild neighbors the elephants, rhinoceroses, and polar bears threatened with extinction?

  • Would you say it to honeybees suffering from colony collapse and monarch butterflies dealing with habitat loss?

  • Would you say it to our Pennsylvania forest ecosystem, our wild neighbor who has suffered the damage of deforestation, strip mining, and development, wrestled with the chestnut blight which has made dwarves of giants, felt the impact of hemlock wooly adelgid that saps our Eastern hemlocks of their strength and nutrients, and most recently come to know the affliction of the strikingly beautiful invasive emerald ash borer which has made brittle lifeless leafless snags of the ash trees which up until a few years ago made our autumn hillsides pop with variegated shades of red, orange and yellow?
 The invasive spotted lanternfly may be the next crashing wave in the unbearable storm suffered by our forests during the past century alone.

In his book, A Sand County Almanac, American Nature Writer Aldo Leopold writes the following:

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or be must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” (A Sand County Almanac. Aldo Leopold. Random House Publishing Group; New York, 1966. Pg 197)

Our forests are going through a hell-storm of abuse, over-consumption, and introduction of invasive species- but only those who have become students of wild spaces have eyes to see it.

As bad as it is, it’s still easy for most to overlook.

Our forest landscape has been weathering a storm too great to handle and the vast majority of people who have hiked its trails have failed to notice its plight and its unbearable struggle.

As many of us do not have eyes to see the unbearable storms the forest is experiencing, many of us are blind to the unbearable storms that our human neighbors are going through as well.

In chapter eight of the Gospel According to Luke we are given an image of Jesus’ first disciples experiencing such a struggle. The sea of Galilee is about five miles from one shore to the other. One day they found themselves about halfway across the lake when a fierce storm came down upon the lake causing big waves to crash over the sides of their little boat. Fearing for their lives amidst so great and terrible a storm they cried out to Jesus who had been peacefully sleeping in the boat with his head on a cushion (can you imagine!!??).

Upon waking Jesus calmed the storm and asked them, “where is your faith?”

Considering the unbearable storms that I and my neighbors have been given; I want to experience Jesus speaking that peace to me amidst the storms. Can you relate?

And I want to speak the peace of Jesus into my neighbor’s unbearable storm.

I want to speak the peace of Jesus into the unbearable storm of the whole forest ecosystem.

I can do this by treating each with the love and kindness due to anyone I’d count as a neighbor,
  1. by choosing to be present, 
  2. to listen, 
  3. to understand,  
  4. to care.
Sometimes God may give us the ability, working together, to bring the peace of Jesus in a way that calms the storm for good.

But it seems that more often, bringing the peace of Jesus into the unbearable storm of a neighbor’s life is about making the unbearable storm and life itself a little more bearable because of the love and kindness that’s shared.

Regardless, the peace of Jesus is rooted in the wisdom contained in this tenet:

love your neighbor as yourself...and who is my neighbor? Your neighbors are those to whom you extend love and kindness.

Jesus is there. In Community. In the Love. In the Kindness.

And until the time comes when the whole world and every part of it will experience the peace of Jesus Christ on the day of his return, therein lies Christian faith.

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