I’ve been reading Losing Eden by Lucy Jones which describes in beautiful language the many benefits – including biological, psychological and spiritual – of close contact with the natural environment, writes John Dempster.
Openness to nature was one of the things which helped the author as she recovered from a mental health issue: “The world glowed, and it cooled my mind.”
It’s ironic that we’re discovering this at a time when humanity has so ravaged the planet that its future is uncertain.
In a blog post Lucy Jones describes going to a wooded area at the Christian campsite she was attending as a late teenager. Praying beneath a tree, she had an “ecstatic and electrifying” experience, which she took to be from the Holy Spirit.
Later, having turned from Christian faith, she explained this in purely psychological terms. Now she wonders if it was related to her proximity to trees. She’s had many profound experiences of feeling part of the web of nature as an expression of a universal life force, and she’s drawn to Druidism.
I wonder what the connection is between the life force the author writes of and the God of love? All I know is that creation is a living, vibrant expression of God who is present in every molecule, active in every sub-atomic particle.
Lucy Jones blames Christianity for giving theological permission for the world to be plundered, since humanity, bearing “the image of God” is seen to stand apart from the rest of creation. Yes, Christians see humans as special, reflecting God in ways other creatures don’t. But we see humanity very much as part of the web of creation, responsible (and how we have failed!) for its care.
Christians often focus just on individual salvation (as seems to have happened at the camps Lucy Jones attended). But the big picture is one of God ultimately bringing wholeness and healing to the whole of creation. We tell of a universal Jesus, life force, source of all truth, goodness and beauty who invites each of us to join the dance of creation.
Our spiritual experiences are unique and different. What happens if I’m someone whose experiences don’t easily fit into what the church considers “normal?” Do I compartmentalise my life, or recognise that all positive, lastingly enriching experiences are gifts from God?
According to Lucy Jones, followers of Druidism recognise within them a “grove” where they feel a sense of connection. On my better days I find an Eden within, and the God who waits there to meet me has a human face, the face of Jesus.
So perhaps Lucy’s teenage experience involved all three – psychology, the presence of trees and above all the God of Creation.