Article by Peter Koeppel, member of Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. Koeppel serves on the diocesan Stewardship Resources team and the diocesan Creation Care Initiative and is a frequent contributor on the topics of creation care, stewardship, and racial justice and reconciliation.
We don’t see what causes the tropical waves, those areas of low pressure off the coast of Africa, which seed hurricanes in the North Atlantic. It’s got to be something, though.
Stay with me for a moment, I promise this won’t be hard! A few years ago, a branch of science going by the name of chaos theory tried to tackle the question how these tropical waves, for example, might form. The basic idea is that the formation of these tropical waves is dependent on some other, earlier events. We may not be able to pinpoint these earlier events, because we didn’t notice them. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in Africa could create an eventually large enough airwave to cause a tropical wave to form off the coast of Africa.
The basic idea, here, is that what happens tomorrow is not due purely to chance, but depends on what happened today, which in turn depends on what happened yesterday, and so on. Following this chain backwards in time, eventually, we get to a tiny, seminal event which leads to some much larger event we observe today. Looking forward, some tiny event today will have a large impact in the future. The finer points in all this we leave to scientists trained to handle them. But just because the details of this quickly do get hard, does that mean it’s impossible? No—there are more things between heaven and earth than our minds can grasp.
If something as innocuous as a butterfly flapping its wings could, by the time it combines with other atmospheric events, grow into something as powerful as a hurricane, what other events might have far larger consequences than we appreciate?
Consider this. A week after Easter I was visiting our church offices. One of the offices was full of flowers and plants which were to have been used as altar decorations on Easter. The plants were still vibrant and had managed to attract a little bee. When I got there, the bee was desperately trying to get back outside, but a bit of “really hard air” (you and I might have recognized it as a window pane) stood firmly in its way. I asked for a cup or glass and a piece of thin cardboard or stiff paper. You know where that’s going: I was going to catch that little bee. A few seconds later, outside our office building, I was able to release the little bee, which took off in a big arc into the blue sky.
What might that little bee do next? Maybe it will return to its hive, then join other bees going out to collect nectar and pollinate flowers, bushes, trees… The nectar would feed more young bees, helping the hive grow and do lots of bee-things. The pollinated flowers might grow seeds for next year, and bushes and trees might grow fruit to nourish animals or even humans. I’ll never know how much good that one little bee, now that it’s back in God’s creation, will do to extend God’s creation into next year’s flowers, or for the survival of other living beings—animals and humans alike. But I do know that the tiny act of releasing a single little bee back into God’s creation will not be without a much larger impact. Now, please ponder for a moment: what if we had let that little bee die inside our offices? What might God’s creation have been deprived of?
Ours is not to ultimately know those things; ours is a limited capability to comprehend God’s vast, complex, and rich creation. But if we let our actions be guided by love of it, we’ll likely do well by it.
How about it: would you care to join me in committing small acts—acts that could have a much larger impact—of love and caring for God’s creation?