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Falling in love: A Kutana Kenya reflection

By Carter Harrell

“There is an ancient poem about this unfinished world we call home. In this poem there are stars and fish and earth and birds and animals and oceans, and they’re all in the endless process of becoming. It’s not just a tree, it’s a tree that produces fruit that contains more seeds to make more new trees. It’s a world exploding with life and beauty and complexity and diversity, all of it making more, becoming and evolving in such a way that tomorrow will be different from today because it’s all headed somewhere. Nothing is set in stone or static here; the whole thing is in motion, flush with vitality and pulsing with creative energy. (This poem, by the way, is the first chapter of the Bible, in case any of this is starting to sound familiar.)” – Rob Bell, How to Be Here

If you remember anything about the animated Disney classic The Lion King, you probably remember watching all the animals of the Serengeti gathering for the opening musical number, The Circle of Life.

Whenever someone asks what kind of animals I see on a safari in Kenya, I usually mention that scene as a reference for Kenya’s wide range of wildlife. While the real thing doesn’t usually include a musical number, the circle of life is extremely evident in its beautifully complex ecosystem.

Rob Bell refers to the circle of life as a process of “becoming.” Across the span of our Kutana Kenya experience, we saw the process of becoming in both physical and nonphysical ways.

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Kutana Kenya participants experiencing physical “becoming.” (Photo: Melody Harrell) 

We saw it in physical ways through the conventional understanding of the circle of life, like a wildebeest being hunted and killed only to serve as sustenance for a pride of lions. Even after its death, the wildebeest was still “becoming.” Another physical example that we experienced while planting trees to offset our carbon footprint was composting. The concept was simple; by saving your fruit and vegetable scraps, you can allow worms to convert that organic material into plant fertilizer.

In the same vein as the wildebeest, the food we eat and often throw away is filled with the potential to become; it can become worm food, which becomes fertilizer, which helps plants to grow, which becomes new life.

While it can be easy to see the world in its constant state of becoming, we also see this in the nonphysical world. The things we experience, or even the emotions we feel, are in a constant state of becoming.

Who almost always starts cancer foundations? Cancer survivors or their family members. Who almost always starts support groups? Victims of addiction. When we experience suffering, often the most natural thing to do is to use that suffering to create something greater.

Everything around us, from wildlife to a piece of fruit to an aluminum can to an experience or emotion, is filled with the God-given potential of becoming. The unfortunate truth, however, is that for all the potential in the world, a painfully small fraction of it will be realized. So what can we do about it?

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Carter Harrell and Summer Hyche experience the ecosystems in Kenya with their eyes opened. (Photo: Melody Harrell)

Two key things I learned on this trip have stuck with me; God created this world with love and potential, and the realization of that potential is up to us.

There is so much that we waste every day that can still be used. Whether through recycling, composting, or reusing, we have the power to allow the things we use to become. Even the emotions or convictions we feel can become so much more if we would only let them. So why is it so hard for us? How do we do it?

Matthew Fox suggests four paths of creation spirituality, and the first of those is: “Thou shalt fall in love at least three times a day.” It often seems like we live our lives with our eyes closed. The power of our time in Kenya was that our eyes were forced wide open.

As our eyes were opened, we fell in love. And as we fell in love, that love brought conviction. That love brought passion. That love brought possibility. That love brought potential. God brought this amazing world into becoming because God fell in love with it. If we loved the world and environment the same way God does, imagine the ways we could nurture it and empower its becoming. Maybe all we need to do is open our eyes and fall in love.

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