I have really been inspired by Robert Hruzek’s challenge to the High Calling Bloggers this month: What Have You learned from Animals? There is so much to say that I don’t know where to start. My natural inclination is to talk about the Godlike unconditional love and acceptance that I see in our golden retriever Bonnie but I think I will begin instead with that elusive creature the platypus that Bob so casually mentions in his post about this writing challenge.
In spite of the fact that I grew up in the land of the platypus I have actually never seen one. Platypuses (or is it platypi) are small, shy, nocturnal animals that are not fond of human contact. Even when I visited the platypus house at the Sydney zoo they did not come out to meet me so I really have to accept it by faith that they actually exist – a mammal with a bill like a duck, that lays eggs but suckles its young and that hides away from people. Hmm can I really believe that? The early Australian settlers had trouble convincing their friends back in England that this was not a myth – a little like the Bunyip, a truly mythical Australian creature with a horse like tail, flippers, and walrus like tusks, that in Aboriginal folk lore inhabits the creeks, waterholes and billabongs of the outback.
As I think about the platypus I am reminded of Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Just as I need to accept by faith the existence of the platypus that I have never seen, so too I have to accept the existence of a God, who loves us, cares for us and is actively at work in our world restoring, redeeming and making all things new. And I do struggle with that when I read about the millions in our world who are starving of hunger or when I learn about friends who are dying of cancer. .
That reminds me of another important lesson about the nature of God that I learned from another intriguing “animal” – the peacock. Did you know that a peacock’s feathers only contain the brown pigment melanin in them? The incredible array of ‘colors’ we see is structural. Directional layering of the feather’s keratin protein combines with the melanin background causing light to refract in such a way that we see color. Isn’t that amazing? What we see and what we think we see are totally different things. That, at least in part, explains why I have trouble understanding the way God works. As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
Maybe if I spent more time contemplating the platypus and the peacock, I would be more willing to accept God on faith too and trust that God really does work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)