‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.’ Romans 8:22 (NIV).
Right outside our home is a field maple tree. It is young, with perhaps just 30-40 years behind it, and stands at roughly 25 feet tall. It flowered well last year and the disrupted pavement beneath shows root growth. The maple’s samaras elegantly twirled to the street throughout autumn, so one could be forgiven for considering the tree a healthy specimen, primed to adorn our street deep into the century.
Closer observation however, reveals that not all is well with the young tree. It is cut off from the southern sky by our building – save for a crack between buildings in the south-west –and it is blanketed by lichens, which for the maple can be a sign of an unhealthy tree. It is perhaps a poignant example of poor urban landscaping, or maybe the tree’s condition is merely accidental. Whichever, the future of our maple seems bleak, even without potential urban development nearby.
We needn’t despair though.
Romans 8 outlines the future glory that awaits the children of God. In verse 22 Paul helpfully reminds us that God’s creation will be a part of that future. The verse compares nature’s longing to the pain of childbirth. Nature desperately longs to live under God’s gracious rule, as it was always meant to. The natural world eagerly awaits renewal, and in the new earth, our heavenly home, creation will be restored to what it was meant to be. As is seen in the verse, this promise is not reserved for the grandest spectacles only, such as lofty mountaintops or lush grasslands, but rather, Romans 8:22 tells us that the whole creation groans. That includes our field maple. What a wonderful thought. The nature on your doorstep, no matter where you are, longs for God.
We do not deem nature as sentient, but we do recognise its capacity to respond to the Lord. If nature can wilt and suffer under human development, how much more will it thrive and shine in our Father’s glorious future? In the meantime, let’s partner with God and others to care for creation and each other until this liberation is complete.
Not all of us live in urban landscapes. Some live in more picturesque places, where the maples are far freer. Wherever you call home, when you next encounter the nature on your doorstep, remember – it longs for God just as we do.
This reflection was written by Joseph Posner for our Wild Christian email, ‘nature on our doorstep’. Joseph is an Assistant Pastor who recently completed his MTh at Spurgeon’s College, South London. His writing passion is to intertwine a love for the created world and a deep love for God. He has penned two novels based on this theme – one published and one self-published. They can both be found at: www.josephcposner.com