For most of us, 2020 has been a spring like no other. The effects of COVID-19 will be long-lasting, and its memories will live with us for the rest of our lives. And yet alongside the pain and the challenges of this season, for many of us ‘a spring like no other’ holds true in a different sense. The enforced quietness of the season has led us to connect with nature more than we’ve ever done.
Nature itself has benefitted hugely from the sudden ending of many of the unsustainable and destructive patterns of human living so affecting the planet. Add into the mix the sunniest spring since records began, and the result has been a unique cocktail of tragedy and beauty, of death and life, of disruption and renewal all at the same time.
BBC Springwatch was particularly good this year: and perhaps some of you, like me, have been watching in wonder, and learning a lot at the same time. Nowadays we can explain much animal behaviour in terms of evolutionary adaptation, and that’s all well and good. But the Bible also points to a deeper truth, and one which we can also celebrate: that the natural world reflects the glory of God. Its beauty and power points to God’s beauty and power, and causes us to praise and worship. Time spent in nature is not just good for our physical and mental health, but our spiritual health too.
At its heart, nature is about irrepressible life. Having lived most of my life in urban London, I used to marvel at the flowers pushing up between the cracks of paving stones or attaching themselves to holes in walls as I walked around Streatham. Hard as we human beings tried to remove it, nature always found a way to push emerging life through the cracks.
God, too, ultimately is about irrepressible life – or ‘life in all its fullness’ as Jesus described it. That is His purpose for all of us: eternal, irrepressible life. ‘When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground,’ declares the Psalmist (v30).
Take a moment today to reflect on your ‘nature moments’ of this year. For me, it has been watching the flowering season of the glorious rhododendrons in the woods, and the pair of greater spotted woodpeckers using our birdfeeder. It could be anything: the blossom on the trees, the dawn chorus, a clear blue sky. And let that fill your heart with praise for the God who ‘stretches out the heavens like a tent’, who at His heart, is the giver of irrepressible, eternal life.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.