As humans, we are connected to our landscape, and there is evidence that taking care of our land is more beneficial than we think. Theodore Hiebert in his article “Eden: Moral Power of a Biblical Landscape” explains how we are linked to our landscapes and how our work is to be in the service of nature’s needs. This is supported biblically, especially in Genesis, when the Lord takes Adam and puts him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. In my short time working the land, I have experienced the evidence expressed in the Bible and by Hiebert that the Lord rewards those who give back to their landscape.
In recent years my dad has had an interest in real estate. He was interested specifically in pieces of land that had a perfect habitat for white-tailed deer. A few years ago, he found an 80-acre parcel of land that he could not pass up. On the southeast corner of the property, a river cut through a dense swamp. The swamp then turned into a 5-acre field used for crops. This small field was sandwiched between the swamp and a maple tree forest that just happened to be showing off all the fall colors; the property then transitioned into rolling hills and small forests. The rolling hills amounted to 45-acres of tillable farmland, and the other thirty-acres of swamp and random forests divided the field into sections.
When my dad bought the property, it was not in the best condition. There was only one thing to do, and that was to till the land. It just so happens that “the Hebrew word translated ‘till’ is the ordinary Hebrew word meaning ‘serve’” (Hiebert 6). My father and I were unaware of this translation, but we still knew the land needed to be taken care of. It was many years later that we discovered our service to the land was also a form of serving the Lord.
My dad and I began our agricultural journey together by making a small apple orchard. We spaced out around 30 apple trees and planted them around the main driveway. Not only was it a pleasant view as you pulled in, but the deer loved the sweet crunch of an apple! From the orchard, we moved on to the field. This field was not a farmer's dream. A thin but long line of trees and bushes cut through the center of the field, so the farmer who planted it had to drive all the way around it to plant more crops! So with the help of a few friends and a bulldozer, we removed an absurd amount of pesky scrub trees. This simply made the land easier to farm and was a positive development that had been needed. How could we just rip trees out of the ground and not put something back into the soil? My dad had just the plan to give back to the land. He ordered over 400 pine and spruce saplings, around 50 river birch and serpentine cedar trees, and another 100 various trees including willows, oaks, and other trees. We planted these trees in strategic locations around the property. Needless to say, we made up for the trees we tore down. The last big project we completed was planting the small 5-acre field on the southern border. We planted all sorts of crops like soybeans, corn, turnips, alfalfa, and ryegrass. Hiebert explains our service to nature like this: “[H]umans are created as God’s representatives to oversee the world of nature. As stewards, they are to exercise authority as God directs them to do so” (Hiebert 6). We did our best to give back to the land, and the land in turn gave back to us. It was the year after we had finished all of our work on the property. After we had planted over 500 trees, after we had spent hours planting crops, after we had sent blood, sweat, and even tears into the soil, it was then that God blessed us. My dad harvested the biggest white-tailed deer of his entire hunting career, and it was all on the same soil that he worked so hard to develop. I believe the Lord blessed my father because of his dedication to serving the land.
Through being a steward of the Lord, I’ve learned that taking care of the land is a form of service to our Creator. I’ve also been shown an example of God rewarding a man who was unwavering in the development of his landscape. Like Hiebert says, “[T]he stories of these landscapes and the people that inhabit them lie values that have shaped us and that continue to challenge and remake us” (Hiebert 1). Through taking care of our land and realizing we are connected to our landscape, we allow ourselves to grow as humans, serve the Lord, and be rewarded for our faithfulness.
Hiebert, Theodore. Eden: Moral Power of a Biblical Landscape. The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2002.
"Our Connection to Nature: A Closer Look," written by Brandon Hunt, was proffesor-nominated as an outstanding FYE piece published in the Spring 2022 edition of The Crossings "Author's on the Rise."