For most of my life when I was growing up, I had a room to myself. I could do what I liked with the arrangement of my furniture, my toys, my clothes, and my ‘stuff’. I was not a particularly tidy person (still not!), so imagine my frustration when my parents insisted that I keep my room both clean and tidy. Dirty plates and cups would apparently attract cockroaches and rats; leaving my stuff around would get it dirty, damaged, or lost. Instead, I would greedily and selfishly insist “But it’s MY stuff and MY room so who cares?!” Neither the rest of the house, nor the people in it, really came into my worldview.
It’s a little embarrassing for me to admit that as I read Baulkham’s third chapter, “The Community of Creation”, I realised that I haven’t really grown up since then. I still see my things as MINE, the house I inhabit MINE, and the creation I inhabit as irrelevant or merely serving my needs. I would do better, as Baulkham suggests, to have a more theocentric rather than an egocentric or even anthropocentric view of my world, and realise that:
“The presuppositions of Jesus’ creation theology are very far from the wasteful excess and the constant manufacture of new needs and wants in our contemporary society. Jesus intends to liberate his disciples from that anxious insecurity about basic needs that drives people to feel that they never have enough. But in our society… [there is] an obsessive anxiety to maintain an ever-rising standard of living. It is this obsessive consumption that is depleting and destroying the resources of nature and depriving both other species and many humans of the means even of mere subsistence.”
To use the bedroom analogy, as an 8 year old clearly my view of the world was egocentric and greedy: “my” stuff was of course gifted to me or even really owned by my parents, just as the things I have and inhabit now are gifts of a good God to me. And like my attracting gross pests from dirty dishes to one room in the house would naturally bring them to others, or needing to constantly replace the things I lose/break, the way I live my life impacts other humans and creatures. Our society operates on the anthropocentric view of the world, not caring what happens to the creation so long as their “room” is left up to their own devices – even though nobody lives in a bubble, and what happens in their room does affect others.
Baulkham’s chapter poses an interesting tension to walk: how to live with both joy and mourning in this beautiful but ultimately frustrated creation? Again, I think the bedroom analogy helps. If I had been more thankful to my parents, more appreciative of what they gave me, it would have been a pleasure and a joy to not only have them but to care for my things as needed AND enjoy helping the house to be a beautiful (and clean) place! Perhaps instead of expecting or demanding ‘new’ things all the time at their cost, I would have been better to go without, and learn what it means to trust that I can be happy, even without my ‘stuff’. As Baulkham says:
“… if we accept the diagnosis that human wrongdoing is responsible for ecological degradation, it follows that those who are concerned to live according to God’s will for his world must be concerned to avoid and to repair damage to God’s creation as far as possible.”
So here are a couple of exercises I thought of to try and reflect more of the tension of mourning and praising that this chapter suggests:
1. Imagine your life as a ‘room’ in God’s ‘house’. What are the impacts on the ‘house’ around you that you have been ignoring? How can you show your appreciation more?
2. What things can you go without replacing, to teach you to mourn for the brokenness of creation and trust Jesus to still provide you with all that you need?