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As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

Is that singing I hear? Or is it groaning?

It’s mid-May, and I’ve returned to Northern Minnesota where my husband and I, approaching retirement, spend much of our summers. One of our favorite pastimes up north is riding bikes on the nearby trails, and I’m excited for my first ride of the year.

The phrase “all creation sings” pops into my head as I hit the trail. Indeed, nature is singing all around me. The guttural trilling of frogs in the marshes, the robin’s light tweedle-dee-dee, and the red-wing blackbird’s high-pitched buzz-song, all join in the chorus.

I glance from side to side, taking in the landscape. Cattails are shedding their wooly coats in favor of the sleek, velvety brown ones they’ll soon display. Pine trees, lining the trail, point to the azure sky. Birch trees, with white bark that peels like mini scrolls, declare the wondrous variety God has created. Just as I wonder if it’s too early to see wildflowers, bright yellow marsh marigolds, clumped in patches along the shallow swampy ditch, grab my attention as if to say, “We’re here! We’re here!”

Nature, straight from the hand of God, brings me closer to him. Creation sings his praises through the marvels that surround me. I realize that even manmade things are his handiwork. He has given humans the knowledge, intellect, and creativity to make wheels, gears, and pedals … so I can ride a bike. His gifts to us include recorded music, the internet, and Bluetooth speakers so I can listen to music while I ride. I stop and take photos and send them to my family, another modern miracle that is manmade, and by association, God-made.

As the breeze and warmth of the sun caress my cheeks, I thank God for his handiwork and revel in all the goodness of this day. Indeed, all creation sings his praises.

It’s a balmy 79 degrees, and yet, up ahead, it looks like it’s snowing. Fluffy white flakes fall through the air, piling up like mini snow drifts along the trail. But this isn’t snow. The cottonwood trees—or poplars—drop their seeds in this white, cottony fluff. They’re producing more seeds than usual to improve their chance of survival in the persistent drought conditions Minnesota has seen over recent years.

The fluffy seeds cause my mind to snowball as I’m reminded of weather extremes that seem to multiply yearly. A recent string of tornadoes and severe weather have ravaged communities in the South and even as far north as Iowa. Our Minnesota sky, which is so blue today, has become increasingly hazy for days over recent summers because of Canadian wildfires.

As my pedals whir, I listen. Do I hear the trees groaning? Is that a heavy sigh on the wind?

If it’s groaning I hear, I can relate. The asphalt trail below me has cracks, patches, and potholes. As I hit the rough spots, my bike and every bone in my body vibrate. And now my tire is rubbing against my brake pad. Something is misaligned, causing friction, and forcing me to work harder as I pedal. My muscles begin to ache. Like mornings when stiff and achy joints in my knees, hips, and back plague me—a constant reminder of my age—I catch myself audibly groaning.

What do we do when our bodies hurt and our spirits groan? We care for them. We might need rest, food, or water. Yoga or gentle stretching can loosen us up on those slow mornings. Perhaps we’ll feel better if we take a walk or ride a bike. In the worst cases of groaning, we see a doctor. The science of medicine, therapy, and surgery are sometimes necessary to cure our aches and pains.

Our bodies are temples (1 Cor. 16:19). God lives within us. He also loves his creation. He commands us to care for both (Gen 2:15).

I bring my thoughts back to the trail and listen for the singing. But the roar of cars and motorcycle mufflers from the nearby highway nearly drown out the birdsongs and frog choruses.

Our human strivings have tainted God’s perfect world. In our overuse of resources and attempts to control nature—building things to make us more like God, nature is fighting back for that control. Climate change and weather disasters show us we’re not in charge.

Still, some humans have gotten things more right than others. I recently read Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY. Through her storytelling, which weaves the indigenous ways of caring for the world with her knowledge of science and nature, Kimmerer tapped into my thirst for scientific knowledge and stirred emotions of awe for God’s creation, fascination with his design, and love of nature’s beauty. She also provoked sadness, guilt, and anger at how we’ve harmed our environment. This book inspired me to do my part, small as it might be, to preserve this world.

Creation is groaning. And I sense God is too (Rom. 8:26).

What can we do to relieve this pain and preserve God’s handiwork? Are there lifestyle changes we are called to make? There are many places to start, like avoiding single-use plastics; recycling and composting instead of dumping in a landfill; buying recycled products, efficient appliances, and hybrid or electric vehicles (as finances allow); and dealing with businesses that limit negative effects on the environment or promote positive ones. God’s gifts to us of intellect and creativity can help us engage in environmental science and support legislation that protects our world from climate change.

Finally, the groaning of God’s creation should cause our hearts to groan in prayer for our world: a prayer that rises up to our Maker as a harmonious song, one in which we harmonize with each other and the world we inhabit. It’s a song that stirs us to respect, listen to, and care for all of God’s creation.

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