My relationship with Jesus began a little less than a decade ago in 2012 in Hyderabad, India. I was a devout Hindu until then, and often times, am grateful that my former religion and my Indian culture help me appreciate God’s love and His creation more deeply. All through my childhood, I desired to have a personal connection with God and Nature. I would speak with the idols in the temple. Though I would worship idols and Nature, I always felt unheard and alone. The only connection I ever had with Nature was the few weeks I got to spend once in four or five years, back in my mother’s native place in Kerala (often referred to as God’s own country because of its lush wetlands & backwaters that are rich in vegetation and wildlife). Not only was it a break from the concrete jungle of Hyderabad, but the smell of the dirt, the chirping of the crickets, the lush backwaters, and the beautiful backyards full of native fruit trees and flowers all brought a sense of home and life to my existence.
I never dreamt that this surreal life would become my everyday life in the United States, when I moved to join my husband, here in Washington State, in 2015. I would sit in awe praising God looking at the beautiful lawns and trees in our Pacific Northwest region. I had never done this before, because all I was taught and all that I have experienced in my Christian life was to praise God for the Cross and for all the sufferings in life, because that is the only true hope and faith. So I started questioning myself—will I not praise God in the desert or in a concrete jungle? Will I praise Him only for His good works that my eyes see? I also carried the fear of idolatry from my past. In my former religion of Hinduism, every element of the created world has religious significance and sacredness—the King Cobra snakes, the banyan trees, the neem trees, and so on. I was afraid that I was crossing a line in my faith, as I didn’t know if it was okay to just sit wondering at His Creation knowing that He is in it all—very alive and speaking.
From that doubtful state, I have grown to understand that creation gives me a renewed sense of awe and love for my Creator God. God cannot be contained in any of His creation. But I learnt that my God is not aloof from me in my humanity nor this created world I live in... the proof is Jesus himself. I have come to realize that GOD’s love abounds in His creation! I cannot contain God in anything, including any religious doctrines or cultural frameworks that are restrictive or prescriptive in manner of describing where I must seek to encounter God and His living presence in my life. The earth breathes in Him just as we do... and I cannot let go of another day not knowing Him in all that is created and sustained by Him. This is where I stand now in my journey of ecological discipleship, much different from where I was less than few years ago.
This journey was/is never alone. Many people have not only helped me discover this journey, but also helped me to understand more deeply and grow stronger in my ecological discipleship. My greatest influences have been my church (Highland Covenant), my graduate class and teachers (at Northwest University), and the Circlewood community. My Church’s former Pastor, James Amadon, would often connect Scripture with Creation and Social Justice in his sermons—it felt like going on a treasure hunt to discover all these amazing connections. My church Staff and Council would use individual and collective artworks to explore the sermon themes. The paintings, artworks, and works of writing, including the Highland Lenten devotional compiled and edited by Louise Conner, provided me an opportunity to explore God’s creation in unique, creative, and personal ways like never before. Our church’s annual winter retreat at the Cascades Camp and Conference Center in Yelm taught me about prayer walks and meditation in Nature.
Another significant experience was when my husband Sashi and I got to care for Forrest Inslee’s garden and puppies when he was away in 2017. Neither of us have had the experience of being entrusted for caring for a garden or animals. Sashi was reminded of God’s first commandment to Adam in Eden regarding caring for Creation, and said, “isn’t this what God expects of us…to be good caretakers of His creation?” For the first time in our lives, we experienced how God’s Word to Adam also was true to our lives.
This journey is wildly wonderful, just as God’s creation (Psalms 109:24). But this is indeed the most beautiful and transformative one I have taken, for I know that it is God’s Will and desire for me to know Him more deeply, more wildly, and more wonderfully through His Word and His creation. We all know that the Bible has numerous references to Nature/Creation. God’s Word has come alive to me in my encounters with His Creation, be it in my garden or on the trail. A seed reminds me of God’s unique, often small in the beginning, uncertain plans for me and us in our lives. A seed reminds me of dying to self to be born again newly in God’s Nature. The beautiful flowers attract our attention and praise, but a dying flower not only reminds me of life’s futility but God’s embedded purpose within it to sustain its species through seed forming. A dying flower also gives me Hope.
This journey is beyond my person. God is teaching and enabling me to expand my ecological discipleship journey to include not just my individual person, but my husband, my child, my church, my community and my neighborhood. It began as I looked through Circlewood website’s “Resources” page and discovered A Rocha’s Wild Wonder curriculum for summer camp. This Summer, I bought this amazing curriculum and did a small camp with a few kids of my close friends. The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed this great learning experience.
I never miss an opportunity to spread the word on this curriculum within my community circles and have found many equally interested. I very recently started a YouTube channel, Wildly Wonderful World, to talk about everyday Creation/Earth care practices within my local community. I believe it is God’s desire for me to care for what He loves and cares for. Just as Creation is for me from God, I am also for Creation, called to care for it in God’s great love.
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