Sometimes it takes a child to remind you how to see the world.
Lately, there have been a few of those moments in our family. None more so than the night before the funeral when our youngest daughter spoke about how ‘there’s a sadness inside me about Grandpa, but the happiness about him being in heaven is even brighter.’
Children view things differently. Where we assess problems in multiple dimensions, children see in black and white. Where we can become weighed down by the need to please or frozen by the fear of possible consequences, children will see a far simpler equation: problem + solution = let’s act
Which brings us on to Greta Thunberg. Just under a year ago, when she was fifteen years old, she decided to act. After a summer of heatwaves and wildfires in her native Sweden, she did the maths. She concluded that striking from school and sabotaging her education was a price worth paying if it resulted in action. The rest of the story is well known – though if you’ve not already seen it, her TED talk here is well worth watching.
For each of us, every day, there are so many reasons to not act on climate change. It’s slow. It’s inconvenient. It’s expensive. Perhaps worst of all, it means giving up on certain aspects of our convenience-driven lifestyle – the lifestyle that many of us have been accustomed to since birth.
It’s hard work on the emotions too. With so much doom on the horizon, which of us can muster the optimism required to believe that we really can effect the kind of change required?
And yet, as Christians trying to follow a generous God, doesn't that all sound at least just a little bit familiar? As individuals, none of us can up our game enough to earn our salvation. The odds are never in our favour. But Jesus changes the rules. He steps in. He shows us the bigger picture, reminds us that none of this is ever just about us.
For many of us today, the journey of faith gets a significant boost when we realise the truth of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12 about ‘unity and diversity’ among believers. In a society where individual rights and freedoms are held in the highest esteem of all, it’s a powerful lesson that can take years to appreciate and fully absorb. But the truth is plain to see – we are not alone, we are not separate from other believers. We are connected. We are responsible.
And so it is with the environment. We are not separate. Our actions do not exist in isolation. The story of humanity’s birth is inescapably linked to the physical world we are living in. Yes, we can damage it, but our actions can effect change. Remember the hole in the ozone layer? According to this report, by 2050 scientists expect it to be healed.
Greta Thunberg has been trolled, ridiculed and derided. She has been courted by politicians and leaders as well. But she stands to the side, unaffected by either. “For those of us who are on the spectrum, almost everything is black or white,” she says. “We aren't very good at lying, and we usually don't enjoy participating in this social game that the rest of you seem so fond of.”
Read that last sentence again, would you?
It’s time for us to listen to what the child is telling us. It’s time to stop playing games.