Quick! Name your five favorite holidays. I’ll bet Christmas made that list, and most likely Easter and Thanksgiving. Kids may think of Halloween candy or Fourth of July fireworks. Perhaps you can picture roses for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Did the environment pop into your head? I doubt it. But April 22 marks the observance of the 47th Earth Day, established in 1970 to stimulate awareness of the environment and to celebrate our natural resources. Two key words are the focus: clean and green. Earth Day is intended as a reminder for us to protect our green forests and to work for cleaner water and air. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the benefits of lush, healthy trees, a cold glass of clear water, and a breath of fresh air?
Writing my new book The Beautiful Garden of Eden took my thoughts back to a perfectly green, clean world. Imagine the celebration that took place in the heart of God our Creator during that first “Earth Week.” Everything that He so joyfully made He pronounced “very good.” Picture the “trees that swayed in the breeze.” Clean air. Pure streams. Of course, how could the environment have been anything but beautiful? It all came out of God’s crystal clear heart and perfectly pure mind.
When God graciously turned over this clean, green paradise to a man to steward, He also gave Adam clear instructions which, we are painfully aware, Adam chose to ignore. As I wrote in my book, the result was a “crushing, calamitous curse that made the world wayward and woefully worse.”
(Does that sound like too tough of a tongue-twister? Don’t underestimate your kids! I’ve heard this phrase effortlessly roll off the tongues of even three-, four-, and five-year-olds with delightful giggles!)
Earth Day presents an opportunity
As traditional media outlets, social media, and community events try to remind people to recycle, reduce fuel emissions, buy locally, and think green, I thought I’d offer some further suggestions you might not hear from these sources. You can use Earth Day as an opportunity and The Beautiful Garden of Eden as a tool to help your child understand the importance of clean and green.
- “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it . . .” (Psalm 24:1, NLT). Every plant, every creature, the oceans, lakes, and rivers, the atmosphere . . . all of it. It’s all His creation, His idea. It’s created for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11) and sustained by His power (Colossians 1:17). Stewardship is not about Mother Nature (whoever she is) or saving life on earth from extinction (as if we could). Help your child understand that being a good steward means realizing that this is God’s world and acting like we truly believe it by acknowledging, appreciating, and honoring God for His goodness and His handiwork.
- The environment is not our biggest problem. The earth is not in its present predicament because Adam failed to recycle, plant enough seeds, or reduce his carbon footprint. Our world’s horrible problems (the crushing, calamitous curse) are the fruit of mankind’s pride and rebellion (Romans 5:12). Sin is the biggest toxin on planet earth, and it has polluted the human heart. Perfection came from God’s heart; perversion came from man’s. When we do things our way instead of God’s way, we get our results instead of God’s results. Cleaning your neighborhood or recycling as a family can offer an opportunity to help your child see the cause-and-effect connection between choices and consequences.
- Nobody cleans like God can. Children can easily see that some tasks are just too big. Like trying to clean up an oil spill of millions of gallons with paper towels, our own efforts to purify our hearts are hopeless (Jeremiah 17:10). God provides the only cleanser able to do the job—the blood of Jesus Christ. Help each family member try to grasp the extent of God’s love for them, and His plan to “save the earth” (John 3:16; 1 John 1:7-9; Romans 6:23). Help them to really understand what it means to repent, confess, trust, and believe.
- Think Green. What comes to mind when you think of the color green? I think of the new life of springtime, a healthy lawn, a thriving garden. The New Living Translation has a beautiful word picture that you might want to share with your loved ones:
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” — Jeremiah 17:7-8
Gary Bower has written over twenty books for children. A retired children’s pastor, Gary and his wife, Jan, have twelve children and twenty-three grandchildren. They enjoy their own beautiful garden near Traverse City, Michigan, where Jan does most of the work and Gary does most of the eating. Learn more at Gary’s website, or find Gary on Facebook.