By Rev. Keith Turman | 2023-04-21 | 3 min read
I grabbed a sharp knife from the kitchen drawer and headed out toward the street to meet up with my friends. Our next-door neighbor was looking after me while my parents were away. She was British. I think she was a nun, or maybe she played for the national rugby team. She looked like a rugby player. I can’t remember because I was only four. I think that’s the reason she screamed and started chasing me. I ran for my life. In retrospect, I’m not sure what’s worse, a four-year-old casually walking out of the house with a knife, or a built-like-a-rugby-player English nanny chasing a four-year-old walking casually with a knife. We ran in circles around the front yard until she caught me by the ear. At the time, I was more upset about missing an adventure to the rubber trees with my friends than the pain inflicted by these ear-twisting, very muscular fingers.
My world was full of discovery in those days; all my senses delighted by Indonesia’s wildlife and fauna. We ate rambutan and durian. We rode a water buffalo. Our pet was a little brown monkey. We named him Brownie. Turmans are very creative when it comes to naming our pets. My first dog was a little brown beagle. You can probably guess her name. The rubber trees were my favorite. We would hike for what seemed like miles into the Indonesian jungle, cut into the bark of the tree, rub the sap onto the palms of our hands, let it dry for a moment, and then roll it up into a ball. We would repeat the process until the rubber ball was big enough for playing games.
Saturday is Earth Day. When I was a kid, it seems like every day was earth day. It was the same with my kids when they were small. Maybe it’s because kids are closer to the ground. It’s a known fact that when kids turn two, parents rediscover caterpillars. We love discovering wild things, so we would chase lightening bugs and catch black snakes or lie in the driveway at three o’clock in the morning to watch the once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower. It seems that big people quickly lose the ability to marvel at the wonders of creation. I think we simply stop paying attention. The prophet Isaiah said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The earth is sacred and holy. My favorite spiritual practice is to readjust my proximity to the ground, reclaim childlike wonder, and notice stuff. I love standing in my cornfield dangerously close to the pollinators, heart pounding with a mixture of fear and amazement.
I watched the Netflix series, Our Planet, and it messed with my sleep patterns for a while. Animals on land and sea are disappearing at alarming rates, and entire ecosystems are threatened, in large measure by our abuse and neglect of creation. It’s not supposed to be this way. God created the earth, and God entrusts us to “till and keep the garden.” We are the earth-keepers, and Earth Day is the annual reminder to our sacred calling. It’s really a wake-up call, so that we big people might regain the ability to marvel at the wonders of creation—to start paying attention again. And when we do—the earth will respond—and God, who in the very beginning smiled at the goodness of the world, will do so once again.