On this blog I talk about relationships. Almost every week (not quite as regular this month since I immersed myself in writing the final chapters of my book manuscript!) I write about how our relationships impact us, or how we can impact them.
Today, with Earth Day coming up this weekend, I challenge us to see the planet as one more relationship we are called to care for. And, while I have yet to write a piece on our environment, I find that the subject is actually very much in alignment with our friendships.
Allow me this moment to explain…
A Story of Our Beginnings
One of the stories of our beginnings comes from the book of Genesis in the Jewish scriptures. In that version, Adam & Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, introducing sin into our world.
Sin is often described as disobedience, conjuring up images of preachers pounding podiums and warning of hell. But I find that definition to be too narrow for most of us. Indeed sin can be wrong-doing that needs forgiveness, but there are many other metaphors used throughout sacred scriptures that sometimes speaks to us better at different times including: exile and return, slavery and liberation, fear and peace, missing the mark and staying the course, rejection and acceptance, and the one I want to focus on today: disconnection and reconciliation.
What Adam and Eve experienced that day was, among other things, a profound sense of disconnection. In so many ways, the wedge of what we call sin in this world, impacts all four of our relationships:
- Our Relationship to God: This is often the one that gets the most attention– the message often being that we have to re-prove ourselves to God or find ways to please God. But really I think it’s the next relationship, the one we have with our selves, that actually can mess up the one with we have with God. It becomes increasingly difficult to believe in a Love that is bigger than anything we can imagine or see.
- Our Relationship to Self: How we see ourselves, the ego that starts to motivate us, the defensiveness and fear we live from, our deep sense of never being quite-good-enough. We rarely feel the alignment we seek, often feeling at war with ourselves, distracted, torn, and pulled toward different values.
- Our Relationship to Others: As soon as fear entered our world, it became impossible to not look at each other with suspicion and distrust. In our need to feel good enough personally, it’s impossible to give the gift of acceptance and love to each other. The Other becomes a threat to our personal survival. Even with those close to us, who we commit to love, we struggle our entire lives to live it out in ways that don’t hurt each other.
- Our Relationship to the Earth: Perhaps one of the saddest, and least talked about relationships that experienced deep wounding because of our fear is that with our planet. In the story of the Garden of Eden, a perfectly created earth began to grow thorns and experience it’s own form of death and decay. God commissioned the first humans with the responsibility to be stewards of the earth, working with God to reverse this decay rather than contribute to it. We have lost the very real sense of connection and responsibility for this home of ours– often seeing it as something to use, not seeing it as something to protect.
Every Relationship is Connected
My personal belief is that all the four relationships above are inter-connected. I actually don’t think we can segment ourselves, compartmentalizing some relationships as separate than others, and live full, abundant, healthy and love-filled lives.
In other words, you hear me often say that I don’t think we can decide to have healthy relationships with others, without having a healthy relationship with ourselves. Conversely, I don’t think we can fully be at peace with ourselves if we have angst in our relationships.
I know the God-piece throws off many of us– perhaps we’re uncomfortable with that particular title/label or how we’ve seen others use it for their purposes. But whether we call it Bigness–the Universe, Spirit, Mother Nature, Karma, the Sacred, or God–the truth remains that whatever worldview we end up adopting, whatever belief we hold about what runs our world, or what we can expect from this life, this relationship with that which is outside of us cannot not impact our relationships with others and ourselves.
And in honor of Earth Day, I sound a clarion call that one more relationship we are called to attend to is that of our planet. Like any relationship, we have to figure out how we can enter into a healthy give-and-take– growing ever conscious of what we use versus what we replenish, restore, reuse, and grow. This call extends to how we treat and protect animals, how we view our forests and our farmland, how we share resources with others, and how we protect the eco-systems, water supplies, and every other gift our planet has offered.
I shared the story of the Garden of Eden because it beautifully ties all four relationships together. Our own distrust of God and our desire to grab whatever we want brings pain and consequence to all four relationships. What we do in one affects the others. We are not separate.
The story of our beginnings that says that we will toil and hurt in all four of those relationships is picked up again, at the end of the same Bible, in the story of another New Beginning. This one, in the book of Revelation, says that God wants to bring reconciliation to all that is disconnected. And every story in between those pages, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians is about our call to be, what one of the New Testament writers Paul describes as, “Ambassadors of Reconciliation.”
We are invited to carefully evaluate all four relationships and then do all we can to bring love, healing, safety, joy, and peace, wherever we can.
That means that if we say we want healthy friendships with other women, then part of that is getting healthy and pro-active about our relationship to how we give, protect, and love this planet that we call home.
Happy Earth Day!