Dr Byron Smith helps us consider how nurturing curiosity, kindness and courage can help us live out God's deep love and care for His creation.
We love those around us—our children, friends, elders—because they are a part of us and we of them. It is similar to our relationship with the earth; when we recognise that we are a part of creation, then we can make decisions to notice it, to be in close proximity to it, to care for it.
Our children live in an era when it is easy to learn everything they can about the environment—from books, TV, or the internet—without actually having to have an embodied experience. It is hard to imagine sustaining an intimate human-to-human relationship like this, and I think it is the same with our relationship to the earth.
For an eighteen-month stretch, when my children were really small, we lived in a tiny inner-city flat with a misanthropic neighbour who made it clear he didn’t want us living there. My home was not a safe place to be. So I took my children out to the commons for hours on end.
Ultimately, when I think back on that period, I do recall the trauma of feeling unsafe in my home. But I also remember the comfort that nature gave us when we most needed it: the beech tree that dropped so many nuts I didn’t have to head home early for snacks; the bumblebee we observed making its own secure nest in the moss; the river that flowed around my feet, healing my soul.
And most wonderfully, as my children puttered about, lost in imaginary play, befriending beasties, and naming the plants around them, I watched them grow in love for their environment. Just as we experience being immersed in creation, our love for it—and one another—is magnified.
Like building and maintaining our relationships with friends and family, making kin with the earth is something we can attend to all the time. It's like the daily cup of tea with our spouse or the back-and-forth text messages with a friend. Even when we have no internal resources left, we can approach creation as we would a loved one, confessing our lack, only to find that (as we might with our dearest ones) all is gift.
In Kids and Creation you will find dozens of activities organised into these categories:
Gratitude, remembering, and dreaming
Bringing found natural objects into your home
Delving into deep time
Reminding your body of itself
Grounding and earthing
Naming and caring
My hope is that you will find activities that meet you and the children in your life wherever you are—with whatever energy and time resources you have, and in whatever your circumstances. Realising and living in our entangled-ness in creation is not a self-improvement exercise; these activities are not to be burdensome, or to go on a list of ‘things I need to do to make sure I am raising my kids to be the best they can be.’
I hope that Kids and Creation will bring healing and restoration to you and your kin.
After all, this is God’s desire for the entire cosmos.
Ruth Wivell is discerning ordination with the Newcastle Anglican diocese, tutoring at Uniting Theological College, and raising kids to love creation in their own way.