Keepers of the Earth
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
The pest control salesman looked at me in complete bewilderment, totally at a loss for an answer to my question. He had just finished explaining to me all about his company’s services, how he would spray a protective barrier around our baseboards inside and around the exterior to keep out cockroaches and ants and to kill any insect pests currently living in our walls.
I’d asked, of course, whether his insecticide was harmful to pets, and he’d assured me it wasn’t. I didn’t quite believe him, but I didn’t argue the point. I had no intention of letting him spray anything inside my house.
Just as I’d been about to say so, he’d added, “And we can kill those wasps for you, too,” indicating the mud dauber’s nest above my front door.
“Why would I want to do that?” I’d replied, which was the question that had so baffled him.
“Well, because they sting, and they’ve built their nest on the side of your house,” he finally answered.
“So what? They’re just dirt daubers (as we call them back home). They rarely sting, and they aren’t hurting the house. They’re helpful. They’re pollinators,” I told him.
“Ooh-kaaay,” he replied, moving on, but looking at me like I was nuts. “Well, in addition to treating the house we can fog your yard for mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.”
“Does the fog affect the birds or kill bees?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t think it’ll bother the birds because they’ll probably just leave the area, but yes, it’ll kill the bees,” he answered honestly.
“Oh, well, then we can’t possibly do that. Bee populations are dwindling as it is, and we get lots of bees in our yard thanks to our garden and the lilies. We need them,” I said firmly, handing him back his pamphlet.
The young man left defeated and made his way over to the neighbor’s house, where I silently prayed that he’d have no better luck. I didn’t want anything they sprayed in their yard affecting mine. I don’t like the idea of killing anything unnecessarily, and I fear that by spraying insecticides or herbicides I’ll harm the good bugs and plants along with the unwanted ones.
We were having trouble with ants coming in the backdoor at the time of the pest control tech’s visit, which is why I had listened to his spiel, but I just couldn’t let him spray those chemicals around our home. I like my dog and cat too much. So, I just continued wiping up the ants with a vinegar-soaked paper towel over the next few days, and eventually they stopped coming in.
I suppose I’m a bit of an odd duck. When I was young, my mom used to say that I cared more for animals than people because I would always cry when I heard about an animal being mistreated or neglected. I don’t believe that’s true, but I did often feel more empathy for animals (and children) since I saw them as mostly defenseless. As I’ve grown older, I feel empathy more equitably, but I still have a particular soft spot for animals (and yes, children).
I also talk to trees and plants. There was a tree that my girls and I passed every day on the way to and from school when we lived at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was a grand, old oak tree that must’ve stood there for 100 years or more. We loved that tree and named her Martha. We would stop under her shade and marvel at her massive roots and tell her how pretty she was.
Recently, we had to have a much younger, but similarly large birch tree cut down in our yard. The top had split and fallen during a storm, and the arborist we called said it would die. I cried when they cut it down. Our youngest daughter called it her climbing tree, and I’d even climbed it myself. We have a rail fence that ran within reach of it, and one spring evening on a whim, I put my foot on the top rail and pulled myself onto the broad expanse of the lower branch. I leaned back against the trunk and gazed up into the leaves.
My husband shortly wandered over from the garden, and I grinned, gazing down at him from my perch, while he looked around in confusion and called my name. I startled him when I said, “Up here,” and his eyes flew open in surprise when he spied me above him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he exclaimed, a bit alarmed. I’m sure he was afraid I’d fall or maybe he was just worried I’d lost my mind.
“I’m sitting in a tree. What are you doing?” I replied, laughing.
He just shook his head and said, “Well, be careful getting down,” as he walked away to inspect our grape vine. When I finally did come down, he was standing by to catch me if I fell.
Every time I pass the spot where the climbing tree was, I feel an ache of sadness. There’s too much sun in the yard now, but on Sunday, as I trudged up the hill from our garden after gathering the last of the tomatoes and cucumbers of the season, I glanced over to where it stood, and there was a baby birch growing from the roots of the original. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes, and I was grinning from ear to ear when I found my husband inside and told him the news.
I’ve always found solace in nature. The sound of cicadas in the trees and frogs singing from the creek behind our house are happy, soothing sounds. And in the early mornings when I go sit on the screened-in porch for my devotion time, I love to listen to the owls calling their good nights before bedding down for the day and watch the cardinals and blue jays come out to look for breakfast.
As a kid, outside is where I went when I was upset or needed to think over a problem. I’ve had dogs all my life, and I find them to be wonderful listeners. Taking my dog on walk is one of my best therapies even now.
We were meant to be the caretakers of the earth. That was what God purposed for humans to do. Genesis 2:5, 19 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it…Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”
God created all this beautiful, varied splendor and gave it to us to care for and enjoy. I don’t know what more proof of God’s existence and love anyone could ever want or need. In fact, Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
I can see God’s presence in nature. His signature is everywhere. A cool breeze on a hot day is a reason for thanksgiving. The wonder and joy of growing a garden is cause for celebration and worship. Is there anything more beautiful than a sunrise from a mountain top or a sunset over the ocean? A purring cat in your lap or a loyal dog leaning against your thigh are two of God’s greatest comforters and providers of His unconditional love.
As my faith has grown and matured, I’ve found even greater joy from nature and taking care of the earth isn’t just something I feel obligated to do, it’s something I genuinely want to do, out of love for the God who made it for us.
These days I don’t just recycle because I should, but because it genuinely troubles me to throw away anything that can be recycled because I worry about overflowing landfills. There was a time when I didn’t give much thought to what kind of cleaning products I used and what I was putting down the drain, but now I try to clean with only all-natural, biodegradable products in hopes of making our water a little cleaner.
And I’ve finally started really noticing birds. I’ve always liked them well enough, but they were just there, a part of the landscape. Now I have two birdseed feeders and a hummingbird feeder in our yard, and we get great joy from watching the visitors who flock to them. Watching the birds who live in our yard has lightened many a gloomy day for me.
Someday, after Jesus’ return, there will be a brand-new earth, no doubt even more beautiful than this one was intended to be (Revelation 21:1), but until then, I will do what I can to take care of my small piece of this one and to make my yard a haven for the creatures who call it home or who just pass through.
Father God, we thank you for this wonderful earth, with its wonderful varied landscapes and amazing diversity of life. We ask Your forgiveness for the harm we've done it, and pray that you would guide us in taking better care of it from now on. We look forward to the day when you return and restore the order You intended and originally created.
In Jesus' holy name - Amen.