When I was beginning in ministry I made a collage with words and pictures that connected with the guided meditation I was participating in. One of the words I included in that collage was “perspective”. I don’t know why I included it then, but I’m glad I did. It continues to challenge me to get outside of my own head and see what other perspectives may be involved in whatever situation I am working through.
Most recently that word has challenged me as I reflect upon the environmental crisis we are experiencing in Bonita Springs and all along the gulf coast of Florida. Recently Lake Okeechobee has released some of their water through the channels into the Gulf. That water contained toxic levels of algae that combined with Red Tide and other nutrients in the channels to create a catastrophic level of destruction in the waters off the Western shore of Florida. Sea turtles, sharks, manatees, whales, dolphins, fish of all kinds, and other wildlife that doesn’t float to the top has died and been washed ashore. I spoke with a local charter boat captain who has had to cancel all of his charters because there are no fish alive to catch. He will go almost an entire month without any income because of this crisis, and he is not alone. I am heartbroken at the destroyed ecosystems all along the coast and the cost of that loss of life environmentally and economically. Yet, this collage challenges me to examine the importance of perspective.
My perspective is shaped by what I believe about God, creation, and the relationship between humanity and God’s creation, and yet I must acknowledge that there are many others who do not have the same perspective that I do. Before diving into some other perspectives, I’ll talk a bit more about my own. I am the child of an environmentalist mother and a father who was raised on a farm. I received a degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management from Northern Michigan University with he intent that I would go and work for the National Parks system or the USDA Forest Service when I graduated. I believe that God has given us responsibility for Creation, but it does not belong to us to do what we want with it. The word to describe this relationship in former days would be “steward”. We are not the owners, but we are responsible for that which has been entrusted to our care. God has given care of his good and beautiful creation to humanity so that it would be fruitful and multiply as a blessing to all as a garden. This is why I am heartbroken when I see environmental crises like the one in the Gulf now, or the many others that have occurred throughout my still short lifetime. I see the earth, and all of creation, as God’s. When I leave this world I believe that one question that God will ask is, “What did you do with the gifts I gave to you?” I believe that will include how I treated the opportunity to steward God’s garden.
There are other perspectives, two that I will reflect upon in particular. The first is the perspective that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ may have; the earth is going to be destroyed eventually anyway, therefore why bother taking care of it? For those who have this perspective they believe that the end is near, that God has a plan to destroy everything at the end, and that God is firmly in control. This perspective is one that holds strongly to God’s sovereignty and tends to leave alone the idea of free will. This is why they do not worry about creation as much because nothing happens apart from the will of God. This is a lot like many other faiths which believe essentially that everything is “fated” so just live and do the best you can because it doesn’t really matter. I realize this probably isn’t doing justice to this perspective, because I don’t think this holds up to the testimony of the Bible. Yet, this position is held by many who claim Jesus as Lord, and so I mention it.
The second perspective is one that I can understand a lot more, because it is the perspective that doesn’t account for God’s existence. Essentially this perspective is one that says; The only reality is this one and I want to get the most out of it as possible. These are the people who care only about the bottom line, and only the bottom line right now. They aren’t worried about 10 years from now. They are definitely not worried about 100 years from now. For those whom this perspective holds most weight they don’t worry about the sea turtles being hurt, about forest fires, or rising global temperatures as long as it doesn’t effect them personally. Some of these people accept the science of global climate change, some do not, and yet they simply do not care as long as it doesn’t impact them directly. Like I said, I can understand this perspective because it doesn’t account for a Creator who might have something to say about what is happening to the planet. These are the people who see the resources available and seek to put them to work in the best ways to make the most profit right now. It’s all about the “Benjamins” and these couldn’t care less about anyone else whose life may be hurt by their actions.
Perspective matters, because it impacts the ways we look at the same things. I see the sea life being destroyed and I am heartbroken because I feel responsible for those lives. Another person looks at those lives lost, they care, but they say it isn’t necessarily their fault because God has decreed it would happen. Yet others look at the same loss of life and see only dollars and cents. You may not find that any one of these quite fits your perspective, and yet I would challenge you to spend time thinking about your perspective. What is it about how you see the world that shapes the way you live in it? This may be the first time you’ve ever taken time to reflect on how your thinking and your doing interact in your life. It may be the first time you’ve ever acknowledged that your thinking and your doing tell different stories. I believe that my faith in God calls me to behave a certain way as a I relate to creation, to other people, to myself, to my resources, to my children, and to the politics (I define politics as;” the way human beings function together in groups”) of this world. What does your perspective say about you? What does it say about your thoughts on God? Not easy questions, but essential ones if we are to be truly human (and also humane).