Soil Reveals the Complexity of God

by Christine Sine

Have you ever wondered what’s in your soil?  How many organisms really reside in that precious topsoil that we so take for granted when we garden?  This is the time of year I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I have just been outside picking greens for our evening salad and repotting tomatoes ready to go in the soil next week. And if you are wondering, for those in Seattle yes I do have tomato plants available for purchase again – this year guaranteed organic and herbicide free.

Yesterday I checked out the Home Grown Edible Landscape website and this article entitled What’s in a Teaspoon of Soil caught my attention. The results might astound you.  In a teaspoon of soil there is:

  • 1 million to 1oo million bacteria
  • 150 – 500 micrograms of fungal hyphae
  • 10,000 to 100,000 protozoa
  • 15 – 500 beneficial nematodes
  • a few to several hundred thousand microarthropods

Wow I thought – this is amazing and as the article commented It’s crowded in there.  The complexity of our planet’s ecosystems is awe inspiring and the deeper we dig (no pun intended) the more complex it seems to be.  The complexity of a teaspoon of soil is incredible but the amazing thing is that every teaspoon of soil is different.  Different structure and different life.  And then just when we think we have it all figured out we go and add some compost and the life and structure changes.  It is enriched and nourished by what we have added and as a result is able to give birth to more life.

No wonder Norman Wirzba and Fred Bahnson in their inspiring book Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation, say:

God’s first love is the soil. This is how it has to be, because without healthy soil and the fertility and food it makes possible, there would be no terrestrial life of any kind. God’s love for us – described definitely in John 3:16 as God’s giving of his son to us – only makes sense in terms of God’ love for the earth that sustains us.

Thinking about that, not surprisingly started me thinking about the God who created it.  God too seems more complex the deeper we dig.  And when we try to place a part of God under the microscope as we can do with a teaspoon of soil what we find is incredible.

Unfortunately our microscopic examination of a teaspoon of God makes us feel we undertand all about God.  But of course we don’t.  Every teaspoon of soil is different just as every teaspoon of God is different.  And every teaspoon nourishes different kinds of life.  Some of us grow well in sandy soil, others in rich loamy soil.  What nourishes you may not nourish me.  In fact the more we know about God the more complex God seems to be and the less we feel we understand.  And then just when we think we understand compost gets added and the very nature of our understanding changes.  It becomes richer, nourished and enlivened just as God.

Imagine what it would be like if we could place all the soil on the planet under a microscope at the same time – the complexity would blow our minds & the calculations of how much life existed would freeze our brains.  Of course it would be impossible to build a microscope big enough for that to happen.  So why do we try to do that with God?  We think that we can place God under the microscope and understand all of who God is and what God is capable of.  Yet really we are only looking at a teaspoonful of God.

So go outside today and grab a teaspoonful of soil.  Rub it in your hands and imagine the life you are holding.  Wet it, smell it, savour the richness of it and imagine the God who created and enlivens it.  What does it teach you about God and about yourself?

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chaplaineliza April 23, 2015 - 6:47 am

Thank you for that, Christine. I had never thought about soil in quite that way before.

In my daily blog, where I’m blogging from a lectionary prayer book in April, I ended up writing about Earth Day. Not intending to, at first, it just sort of happened. Praise be to God! Life-Giving Spirit? To This Mortal Body? #matterofprayer

Christine Sine April 23, 2015 - 6:52 am

Your welcome Eliza. I often think it is a shame that the liturgical calendar does not recognize some of these important world wide celebrations. I know it was created long before they existed but I think it is very important to recognize them. I love the liturgical calendar but sometimes I think it can disconnect us from the real world. So glad that you were able to connect the two for Earth day

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