At first it was song of the yellowthroat, rising out of the marsh. Then the notes of the swamp sparrow rose on the evening air, followed by the sound of the marsh wren. Juncos, veerys and willow flycatchers added their voices to the wonderful chorus singing its praise to Creator as the sun sank closer to the horizon. Bugs darted over the water and frogs jumped as my feet came near. All this busy, vibrant life hummed with praise. It seemed like all of creation was raising a song of praise to the Creator who had given them life.
Unless, of course, one listened a little more closely to some of the songs. The marsh wren, for instance, was not singing a song so much as calling out a warning, crying out in alarm. I had stopped too close to her nest and she was afraid of the damage that I might do, crying out because of my presence. The voice of creation is sometimes a voice of alarm.
Sometimes that alarm has been silenced. The far end of the marsh is owned by an aggregate company. There, the water no longer teems with life: it lies dank and still. The nearby plants droop with dust, unable to breathe. Insect life is quiet, and birdsong is absent. How do we listen to the voice of creation when it has been silenced?
Scripture describes this silence as creation mourning, lamenting the loss of song and life (see Hosea 4.1-3). So how do we listen to this mourning, how do we listen to the silence? And what does it tell us when we listen? What do we do when the one we love is too broken to give praise, too traumatized to sing?
Perhaps we do for creation exactly what we would do for a child whose cries we have heard, or who is too traumatized to speak. Perhaps hold creation tenderly, provide it with loving attention, carefully seek out and nurture its gifts, use all of our cunning and imagination to coax it back to health. And perhaps we cry as well, in mourning for all the innocence and beauty that has been lost.
Weeping, tender holding, loving attention, caring nurture, careful coaxing back to health – all of this, so that once again when we listen to creation, we will be truly hearing a chorus of praise.