Nature as a Healing Balm
Richard Louv, in his book, Last Child in the Woods, coins a term: Nature Deficit Disorder. He describes it as “the human costs of alienation from nature.”
Louv’s contention is that we’ve lost something important in the process of industrializing and that our separation from the natural world has severe implications for our spiritual and emotional health. He writes: “Nature is often overlooked as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life. You’ll likely never see a slick commercial for nature therapy, as you do for the latest antidepressant pharmaceuticals. But parents, educators and health workers need to know what a useful antidote to emotional and physical stress nature can be.”
Jesus, whenever he got stressed out, would go out ‘to a lonely place,’ a mountaintop, or a boat on the sea. He knew what it meant to take time alone in nature and how healing that could be. It drove his disciples crazy, but it was often how Jesus renewed his strength and spiritual sanity. Some scholars believe Jesus was a desert mystic before his ministry, like John the Baptist who lived on locusts and wild honey and wore camel hides for clothes. I like to believe Jesus learned a lot from his wilderness retreats.
“Look at the birds of the air,” he’s quoted as saying in Matthew 6:26-27. He continued, “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.… And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Something is out of whack when we have become so disconnected from the literal roots of our lives. It’s time to learn from birds of the air and the flowers of the field on how to deal with anxiety, and from our Savior who figured all this out in the stillness of the wild.
In January 2020, the UCC’s Council for Climate Justice issued a Kairos Call to Action which called upon churches to undertake an all-out mobilization to address the twin crises climate and inequality. As part of this effort, churches can incorporate into worship on a regular basis a Kairos Moment, a moment for sharing an action that can be taken. This reflection is a sample from a larger collection of Kairos Moments available here.