For us, one of life’s blessings is volunteering at a nature center dedicated to education. An expert in native and edible plants led a walk recently during which he taught me (among many other things) that thorny plants indicate land healing itself. Ohio, for example, was once 90% covered with old growth forests. By 1900, only 10% of the state was forested. Once cleared, some of the most productive farmland on earth was available to settlers.
Leave the cleared land alone and grasses will grow and meadows will soon fill with thorny plants of various kinds. Many have brightly colored berries that call to the birds,
“Eat me, poop out the seeds and spread us around!”
The thorns, on the other hand, broadcast a different message to animals:
“Don’t walk here and don’t try to eat us. You’ll be sorry if you do.”
Without animals chewing and trampling on things, box elder trees grow quickly, then give way to walnut trees, which give way to the mighty oaks of the mature forest. The land, once denuded, is healed and whole.
Native people inhabited this land for 10,000 years before any European set foot on it.
One cannot exaggerate the arrogance of European explorers and settlers who “discovered” and “claimed” the lands, then proceeded with campaigns of genocide, all in the name of God.
The native people knew the forests and managed the land with care. They understood the healing heralded by the thorns.
Thankfully, there are many of us who are coming to understand our proper calling in God’s world – ours is a stewardship to protect and care for creation. We are beginning to grasp the reality that we are a part of nature, interconnected with all living things. We are learning to garden organically, eat locally sourced foods, compost vegetation, and recycle. We are seeing the absurdity of scraping off topsoil and laying down non-native sod, and of eradicating those thorny “weeds” with lymphoma-inducing herbicides.
Many of us care about the air we breathe and the water we drink. We want our beaches to be free of oil. We want the nations of the world to transition quickly to sustainable energy so that millions won’t have to die in floods and fires. We are learning that the first task God gave humans in Genesis was to care for God’s garden.
As with nature, so with us. The interior person reflects the outer world with which she is systemically connected.
Some of my kin may have slashed and burned great forests to plant crops.
I cannot judge them.
I have slashed and burned relationships, opportunities, and talents.
I am the wounded field.
Thorns appear. Yes, and some fruit as well.
I tend to only see the thorns.
Hunger drives the cougar to the hunt.
The hot knife cauterizes the wound.
Though I long to be a mighty oak in the divine forest, I am reminded that God calls
the weak “strong,”
the less “more,”
the slave “master,”
and the poor “blessed.”
See us! Thorny weeds, one and all!
The Master is healing.