By Christian McIvor
A few weeks ago, my wife, our two daughters (ages 5 and 1-1/2), and I were fortunate to be able to spend a very long Thanksgiving weekend together in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Our trip gave us some much-needed time intentionally spent together as a family.
My wife and I cherished seeing the awe and wonder in our daughters’ expressions as they saw the sun rise over the mountaintops the first few mornings and as we encountered families of deer on our windy walks. We enjoyed making our favorite Thanksgiving dishes and savoring them together at the table. The entire trip reminded me of how truly privileged I am to be able to experience God’s abundance in so many different ways—in the beauty of creation, in the love of my family, and in the celebration of a bountiful harvest.
On Saturday morning, our last in the mountains, we missed the splendor and majesty of the sunrise because it had been raining through the night and it was quite foggy. My older daughter, Juliette (who is enamored with the mountains), was clearly disappointed. But as we set off for home and began driving down the mountain we had been staying on for the last time, her mood brightened as she started to notice the streams and waterfalls that had appeared on the sides of the road.
“Daddy, look at all the pretty water. Why is it there?”
I was reminded of Psalm 65, a psalm of praise and thanksgiving:
9 You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
The psalmist uses lush imagery to describe natural cycles—the water cycle, the agricultural cycle, and the life cycle. The earth is watered by God, who nourishes the land so crops can grow and provide food for people and animals, who then populate the land. God is praised as the provider of abundance.
The psalmist tells us that when we orient our lives toward our Creator, we see that all can benefit in the goodness of God’s creation in this relational cycle of abundance. And this is basically what I told Juliette—that the streams come from the rains, which we need in order to grow the food we eat to live, and I reminded her that all of this was why we had just celebrated Thanksgiving. She responded with a satisfied, “Oh!” as she continued to gaze out the window, gasping and smiling each time she spotted a new stream.
When we remember to keep our lives centered on and through our Creator, we become more aware of God’s abundance in all of creation. But by no means does this mean that everyone is able to enjoy it or that we’re being responsible with it.
God’s abundance is freely available for us, but what have we done with it? We have built up and come to base our consumer lifestyles on systems that require us to commoditize, exploit, and severely damage our land and water while pushing entire populations to the margins of society.
Rather than looking to God for true sustenance and caring for creation out of love for God and all we have been gifted, we have learned to idolize ourselves and see ourselves as creators and sustainers of quantitative abundance. As Wendell Berry says, “industrial humanity [has made us] all now complicit in the murder of creation… To the offer of [God’s] abundant life, we have chosen to respond with the economics of extinction.”
If we want our own water systems to continue flowing with life-giving abundance, then we must act. So, let us take on the responsibility of being more active stewards of all creation by being better stewards of our own local communities. Let us be always mindful of how the choices we make impact the socio-environmental systems in which we participate. And as we face the imminent threat of climate change, let us not forget the immanence of God. Let us remember to love God and love our neighbor by continually reorienting ourselves toward our Creator whose river gives us life, enriching the earth so that we and all of our neighbors might eat, drink, and give thanks and praise at the same table.
For a list of helpful websites with ideas for how to be an active steward of creation in your own local community, please feel free to visit this link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Christian McIvor is a CBF Vestal Scholar who is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Holding D.M.A. and M.M. degrees in Trumpet Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he currently serves as the Music & Worship Minister at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., and also on the steering committee of the Alliance of Baptists Creation Justice Community.