“The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.” Joel 2:3
As we look about, it can seem all is being laid waste in our society. A virus cancelling church services, political rivalries, racial unrest, lawlessness… all so troubling. But while paddling through the swamp during the coronavirus quarantine, suddenly the Holy Spirit caused hope to spring up in my heart as I watched an Anhinga perched upon a young cypress tree. God’s creation – and God’s Word – restored hope in my heart!
The naturalists of old write of towering cypress – some as high as 120 feet – standing guard for centuries in the Okefenokee Swamp. But all that changed in the early 20th century. All were laid low. It began in 1909: the pristine Okefenokee began to bustle with cacophony of industry as logging skidders, sawmills and railroad tracks invaded the Swamp. The trees – and the birds! – were gone.
C.T. Trowell wrote, “Systematically, the Hebards extended their logging operations across the Okefenokee. Extending south from Hopkins to Cravens Island in 1912, they reached Pine Island and Mixons Hammock by 1915. Within a year they were cutting the timber between Mixons Hammock and Minnies Island and the railroad was extended across Jones Island to Billys Island. Between 1922 and 1926, they logged the cypress around Floyds Island.”
Would the Okefenokee ever recover? Cypress trees grow very slowly. At a reported growth rate of only about a foot per year in their early stages, it could take 300 to 500 years for the Cypresses of the Okefenokee to once again tower over the habitat as they did prior to 1909. But with the establishment of the Okefenokee as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937, the healing has begun.Today, there are already some scenic waterways through the Okefenokee – tall cypresses mirrored in the tanin-darkened waters – that hint at these former days.
“But fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm.” Joel 2:21-25
So if there is hope of restoration kindled in the heart upon looking at a young Cypress tree, how much more for our society upon looking at God’s Word! There is a hope that things laid bare can one day live again and be renewed to their former glory. If not in this lifetime, certainly in the next.
As Christians, we cease not to pray for our nations, nor forget the restoration that awaits in the New Earth for those who trust and hope in Jesus Christ!
Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.