Nature Proclaims Biblical Truths. Are We Listening?
By Megan Fowler

For Hannah Anderson, tending her land is more than a hobby; it is a discipline with spiritual benefits. While nature certainly declares the glory of God, it also echoes and reiterates lessons from Scripture. And it quizzes the observer: Are you paying attention?

What do flooding streams in our world teach us about flood imagery in the Bible? How does pruning a peach tree deepen one’s reading of John 15? Can a killing frost’s devastation on an herb garden remind us about numbering our own days?

Anderson ponders natural revelation and its Scriptural echoes in her new book “Turning of Days: Lessons from Nature, Season, and Spirit,” released in February. The collection addresses themes Anderson has explored before, but in “Turning of Daysshe assembles the reflections into a collection of 28 essays organized around the seasons.

Hannah Anderson

“Those accustomed to knowing God in certain ways may find it challenging to

encounter Him in different ones,” Anderson writes in the introduction to her book.Perhaps you’ll ask, ‘What can nature teach me about God that Scripture cannot?’ or ‘If I can meet God on a mountaintop, why should I worry about a book?’ But let me suggest different questions: ‘What will you miss if you dont encounter God in all the ways He chooses to reveal Himself? What will you miss if you dont embrace the paradox of revelation?’”

“Turning of Days” blends lessons from nature with ample Scripture passages for further study.

Readers need not move to the country or go for a walk in the woods to observe nature’s work (although Anderson recommends both), but they must pay attention. “For us, nature is more white noise or applause track than dialogue partner,” Anderson admits. And then she shows readers how to engage the dialogue partner.

Though gardening and forest hikes do not stand on equal footing with Scripture reading, Anderson does consider involvement in the church community, tending the land, and Scripture study a trio for spiritual growth. And every season brings new lessons of God’s power in creation.

Author Joe Rigney calls Scripture the Rosetta Stone, the key to reading and understanding everything else. “There are divine lessons in seeds and fields, in sand and rocks, in wineskins and fig trees,” he writes. “Go. Look. Think. Listen. God is speaking to you.”

“Turning of Days” blends lessons from nature with ample Scripture passages for further study.

When Christians keep their faith indoors, they ignore a host of lessons that Scripture itself points to in the created world. From Job to Proverbs to the very words of Christ, Bible commends nature as a capable teacher.

“When we look at Scripture, something like ‘Consider the lilies,’ it makes me wonder how we can hear that and feel like that’s just a suggestion,” Anderson said told byFaith. “I hear the word ‘consider’ as an imperative. ‘Do this. Pay attention to the world I have made. Pay attention to my power in it.’”

Generational Blessing in an Individualistic Culture

Both Anderson and her husband, Nathan, a former Baptist minister who drew the illustrations in “Turning of Days,” grew up in families that loved and cared for acres of farmland. Together they tend a much smaller plot outside Roanoke, Virginia, nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, but the Andersons have developed as many opportunities for nature as their half-acre tract can hold. Apple and peach trees, grape vines, strawberry beds, raspberry bushes, and a vegetable garden give them plenty to do and places to encounter God in the rhythms of the seasons. They cultivate goodness and reap a harvest of blessings that they enjoy throughout the year and preserve for years to come.

The goodness they have planted in their soil will also provide joy and bounty for those who come after them. Their love for the land — expressed in Anderson’s writing — is itself a harvest planted years ago by parents who worked the land and invited their children to join them in the rhythms of nature and spiritual formation.

Nathan Anderson

As their parents chose to embrace the dance of church, Scripture, and working the land, natural revelation played a role along with special revelation in forming their families. Now the Andersons embrace the lifestyle passed down to them and maintain the generational gifts to pass on to their own children.

Modern Western culture does little to foster this sense of connectedness with the land and other generations. Instead, it actively promotes the unencumbered life, as if humans are “hermetically sealed individuals,” Anderson said, breeding a mindset that humans came from nowhere and have no obligations to those who will come after then.

And the rotten fruit of such lies is everywhere: polluted waterways, smoggy cities, generational poverty, ocean shores cluttered with litter, and ocean vistas cluttered by gaudy high-rise condominiums. The disconnection leads to oppression and abuse of the created order and our fellow man.

Our disconnection is literally killing us. According to ongoing research by the insurance company Cigna, 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely in 2020, up from 54% in 2018. Younger generations report feeling lonelier than older generations, and nearly one quarter (24%) of Americans say their mental health is “fair” or “poor.”

The realities and cycles of sin and brokenness break through our hermetically sealed self-conceptions with real consequences. But so do generational blessings.

Creation groans under the weight of sin. The realities and cycles of sin and brokenness break through our hermetically sealed self-conceptions with real consequences. But so do generational blessings.

“All the times I say ‘no’ to selfishness, all the times I say ‘no’ to sin, all the times I choose wisdom and goodness, thats not just for my standing before God. Thats not just for my sanctification and some reward in eternity. Im actively cultivating goodness to pass on to the generations,” Anderson said. “For me, that generational dynamic we dont have in the modern world, but nature is proclaiming it over and over again in the cycles it produces.”

As believers, we get to participate in the work of redemption in our own lives and in the land around us. In “Turning of Days,Anderson wrestles with these contradictions and what it means to work within our limits to push against the brokenness and create beauty. She draws attention to things that are true and have always taken place, but perhaps have been overlooked by those of us rushing to pursue some ephemeral vision of the good life that enslaves us.

But more than sharing lessons, she has learned from listening to creation. Anderson invites readers into the listening. To help novice creation listeners, she includes a field guide of 10 suggestions on where to start.

As we toil and tend, we watch and wait. We plan for the spring planting, work to protect the blossoms, and wait to see the result. As believers, we work diligently, praying in faith that we will leave the world better than we found it.

“So what are you to do?” asks Anderson in the book’s final essay. “What are you to do while you wait? This is what you do in winter: you plan for spring. This is what you do when the earth lies dark: you plan for dawn.This is what you do when death seems to reign: you plan for resurrection.”

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