Notes from afar: Expanding the syllabus in Belize

Professor Brian Walsh walked onto our Belize campus and began our two-week “God and Nature” course with what seemed like a simple request: Re-imagine the way you perceive the world.

This being the halfway point of our Creation Care study program, his request didn’t seem like anything to get too worked up about. It seemed to be just more of the same familiar language we had been working with all semester.

However, these last two weeks have left me spiritually winded and gasping for air.

Entering into class that first day, I imagined I was beginning a somewhat gentle cruise through familiar Scriptures, expecting nothing more then a few new angles which might momentarily rock the boat.

What I got instead was a maelstrom–an exegetical whirlwind snapping all my traditional interpretive moorings and uprooting the very anchors of biblical understanding which have held my faith in its comfortable harbor.

It seems childishly naive in hindsight, but even after a few months in Belize, I keep catching myself delicately plucking the issue of “creation care” out of my Christian walk and trying to re-evaluate it in a safe, isolated vacuum–a removed, imaginary corner of my faith, distant enough that it doesn’t risk disrupting the whole of my worldview.

But, of course, no such corner exists. I cannot slice and dice my Christian worldview and conveniently compartmentalize each issue I encounter. They are all interconnected.

Brian’s request may have seemed simple enough, but he understood that any sincere attempt at re-imagining the earth would reverberate throughout each of his students, extending far beyond singular meanings and demanding a new imaginative view of self and God.

I expected this class would make me more sensitive to a widely marginalized Christian calling. I expected it would illuminate Scripture in some new ways. But I did not expect it to subvert some of my deepest assumptions of life, the order of the universe and God himself. That definitely wasn’t mentioned in the syllabus!

Thankfully, we have had this week off to travel. We needed a week to recover, a week to slow our pace, and when ready, to approach God with a new imagination, a new humility.

And when we finally go there, when we stop arrogantly placing ourselves in the foreground, we will stop performing history as a dissonant solo and rather step back into the harmonious chorus of creation.

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