The Common Good
June 2013

Keep On Keepin' On

by Alycia Ashburn | June 2013

How do we sustain our climate activism? It can't be about fear.

IN ORDER TO imagine the solutions needed for our environmental crises, we must understand the depth and breadth of their severity—but understanding can all too easily lead to guilt, despair, and hopelessness.

Our response to climate change can no longer be about fear. The more overwhelmed, fearful, guilty, or bitter we are, the less likely we are to spring into action. Corporate monopolies, fossil fuel industry giants, and big money lobbyists have succeeded in getting us to be our own worst enemy. Anger and outrage can only get us so far, and no one knows that better than they do. And in my case, only the good Lord, and my loving husband, know the depth of my daily, ongoing struggle with this.

So what is a faithful, God-fearing, creation-loving person to do? One thing that I have found helpful is to purposefully set aside time to immerse myself in nature, appreciating God’s creation in its vast and intricate beauty. Even a 15-minute stroll through a city park helps me to calm down and regain perspective. Watching fuzzy animals, finding colorful creepy crawlies, and overhearing snippets of people’s conversations gives me pause and reminds me that ours is very complex and witty God.

Another thing essential to sustaining myself in this work is to interact with others for whom creation care and eco-justice is a passion or vocation. The interpersonal relationships build community and nurture my soul. And in them we most deeply experience the grace and presence of the Holy Spirit, at work among us, inspired by one another through our faith and common efforts.

Prior to coming to Sojourners, I coordinated multiday workshops for Lutherans Restoring Creation. Each one gave pastors and lay leaders an opportunity to share best practices and resources for integrating creation care into all areas of church life: worship, education, buildings and grounds, advocacy, and discipleship at home and work.

Our time together gave us a safe space to be ourselves. The fellowship with other leaders allowed me to actually practice the love and courage that I know will combat the very real fears that hold so many of us back in our daily lives. It was through our conversations and interactions with one another that I fully realized what is meant by God’s imperative to “fear not.”

One young man told me that he got very “fired-up” about our workshops. He thought about Elijah praying for fire and considered our time together as an answer to his prayers for motivation. Older folks were inspired by the enthusiasm of the younger ones. Most were buoyed by the realization that we don’t have to do everything, and we certainly don’t have to do it alone.

It is often difficult to find time and space for these practices. The modern world is filled with forces that fragment our lives, distract us from one another, and separate our actions from our best intentions. But when I do make time and space in my life to reconnect with God—through communion in nature and with one another—it nurtures my spirit and renews my hope.

We are moved by the abundance of God’s grace and love and renewed by our love for each other, for God, and for all creation. We will not save what we do not love.

Alycia Ashburn is the creation care campaign director at Sojourners.

Image: Background with summer landscape, Tatiana Frank / Shutterstock.com

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