We are all surrounded by creation every day.
Whether you live in a scenic rural area where the slightest bit of attention reveals the beauty of God’s creation or in a big city that requires a bit more effort in locating the natural beauty of God’s handiwork amid the concrete, creation is there.
But how often do we really take the time to simply sit in its presence and appreciate the trees, the insects, the sunset or those often pesky squirrels?
I know from my own experience that amid my to-do lists, schoolwork, a job and just day-to-day “adulting,” it can be challenging to remember the importance of the creation around me. That does not make it any less important.
Aside from experiencing new and different creation in Kenya that I cannot find from my apartment porch in Atlanta, my experiences during Kutana Kenya, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship immersion experience in Kenya, instilled in me a new perspective on my constant interactions with the world around me.
I am quick to admit that I am very much a people person.
I love people-watching, meeting new people and hearing people’s stories. Often people are the first thing I notice, not the unique bird that landed on the tree next to me or the interesting cloud pattern above my head.
Therefore, when I first left for Kenya, I expected the trip’s focus on the environment to be a challenge for me. I immediately began noticing the people around me: how they looked, how they acted, how they sounded.
While I was enjoying the new people-watching scene, I began to become frustrated with myself that I could not focus on our real emphasis: the environment.
When we traveled to the Masai Mara, a national reserve in southwest Kenya, things changed.
We lived in tents surrounded by nature and wild animals; we went on several game drives to observe the ecosystem.
I quickly became more enamored with the creation around me and began spending time alone, silently enjoying that creation.
However, I am still a people-person; the tension between focusing completely on people or completely on creation was quite challenging.
Through deeper engagement with readings and local organizations, I found a way to live in this tension just a little bit more.
The social and environmental issues associated with the people and creation I was growing to love are still as big and overwhelming as before.
However, our readings, experiences and group discussions revealed an even greater and more complex system of interrelatedness.
Understanding the environmental issues facing us helped explain certain social phenomenon, such as wars that appear to be over ethnic divides but may be equally as rooted in a fight for diminishing resources.
Similarly, understanding the complexities of social issues, such as overpopulation, clarified the causes of certain environmental problems.
As my understanding of the vital ways in which people and the environment are immensely interwoven developed further, I began to have a new appreciation for creation care.
Our obligation to care for – instead of dominate the world around us – is important because the natural world was intentionally and wonderfully made by the same God who created us.
However, this obligation is also important because the environmental issues that we are often quick to overlook are life-or-death matters for the more than 7.5 billion people now calling earth our home.
Environmental issues are not some separate topic that we should address in their own time and space.
We must step back and view our world more holistically, in a way that acknowledges and works with the interrelatedness of the people we claim God so dearly loves and God’s creation we are so quick to forget.
Marianna Hilldrup is a second-year student pursuing her master of divinity degree at the McAfee School of Theology with a concentration on global Christianity. She is currently serving as the global missions short-term engagement intern at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A version of this article first appeared on the CBF blog. It is used with permission.