I recently had the opportunity to visit the Everglades National Park, where I had some close (but not too close) encounters with a number of alligators (including our friend above). During our visit, we took a tram ride along a 15-mile path. Part of the path covered an earthen canal. Our guide, Forrest (fitting name, it seems) told us that the canal had been dug out years ago when the Standard Oil Company was exploring for oil. When Standard discontinued their efforts, they gave the canal to the park, along with its surrounding land. Our guide mentioned that there is conversation about getting rid of the small canal – as it was not original to the park – in an attempt to return the land to its natural condition. Forrest questioned the wisdom of this.
As I remember the wildlife that we saw – the aforementioned alligators, along with fish, turtles, and beautiful birds such as anhingas, egrets, herons, and one whose name I can’t recall (but had webbed feet that basically allowed it to walk on a lily pads as it looked for fish to eat) – I can’t help but reflect on the reality that what had been designed by people to expedite the extraction of fossil fuels has turned out to be a place teeming with life.
As it turns out, I agree with Forrest. Whether or not the canal should have been dug originally is a question worth considering. As it stands today, we wouldn’t even contemplate such a project – let alone doing so in the Everglades! But it’s there. And to undo it would be to disrupt what has developed – to essentially undo what Nature has claimed it as its own.
For me this is a parable of sorts for how life works. We as humans are created in the image of a creative God. This means that we are also creators. At times, we create things of beauty and lasting significance. Other times, we create things that are useless or even destructive. In other words, sometimes we use our creative power appropriately; other times, we don’t. But even when we don’t, it’s amazing how creation can redeem what might have seemed irredeemable.
Could we say the same thing about our redemptive God? Isn’t he in the business of bringing life where we’ve blazed a path that looks a lot like destruction? If the Everglades have anything to say about it, then yes. If Easter has anything to say about, then Yes and Yes! Easter makes it clear that God is in the renewing and restoring business. The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just an invitation; it’s also a restoration. It is the defeat of all of the enemies of God and of the enemies of God’s creation. As Romans 8 points out, “all of creation is groaning” – as it longs for the renewal of humanity, the first step in the restoration of all things. And creation itself, Paul writes in verse 21, will itself be set free from the slavery of corruption, into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
That’s an Easter-sized promise. It’s not just people who find their hope in the risen Lord; all of his creation looks to Him for freedom, for restoration, for the redemption that turns our brokenness into His victory.
And so, don’t be surprised when we see glimpses of that restoration in the midst of a fallen world. Don’t be surprised to see God’s creation pointing us to a greater truth: that God’s work cannot be stopped, and will not be thwarted. God is still in the business of restoration and renewal. And what we see a glimpse of in the Everglades, we saw most clearly yesterday: Easter Sunday, a day when God, through His faithfulness, began the work of reclaiming every inch of what he made for his forever kingdom. This is our hope! This is our promise! For every Easter person. And every Everglades.