The Insight of Animals
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. – Genesis 1:24 NRSV
I have watched the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet” on occasion and I am always fascinated by the variety of animals that we have contact with (no matter where you are on the Earth). In my own neighborhood near the Ozarks in Arkansas, I can encounter deer, squirrels, praying mantises, snakes, coyotes, and even really large “almost-tarantula” like spiders. By the way, one of those spiders lived in our garage at one point and some how found a way to get underneath a shelf. When it scurried out from under there, it met a timely death at the hands of my shrieking wife! The point is, just by walking outside, I come in contact with some amazing creatures. If evolution and Scripture is to be believed, we somehow evolved in primitive form from some of those animals before God set Adam and Eve a part to receive the gift of his image.
One type of animal that we particularly bond with are our pets. I have two dogs, Speckles (an English setter nicknamed “Lady Cruella”) and Jay (a Cocker-Pom nicknamed “Aslan”). I have included their pictures as a part of this post. They drive me crazy (especially when they bark at 5:00 am or when our neighbors two houses down are in their own yard), but I love them and care for them. That’s why there was so much attention drawn when Pope Francis supposedly made a statement that pets go to heaven as well; we would like to think our favorite animal companions have eternal souls. Even “The Preacher” in Ecclesiastes quips, “Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Do all dogs go to heaven, I don’t know…but I certainly hope so (and so does my wife who will undoubtedly read this post!). I have also heard that caring for animals is an introduction to parenting…I sure hope not.
Animals have a particular fondness to God too; there was that bizarre scene in Jonah where God asks Jonah why he should not care about the city of Nineveh, “Why should I not spare this city of millions of people…and all these cows?” Jesus later says that his Father’s eye is on the sparrow, and that he feeds them and knows when each of them dies. A common illustration of our relationship to God is sheep needing a shepherd. Just like a shepherd leads, feeds, and heeds the needs (like that assonance?) of sheep; so Jesus takes care of all those who are in his flock. God’s crowning creation was mankind (spoilers!), but let’s not forget to care for the animals God has entrusted to us.
God is Good:
God created the animals for themselves, and so that we could see a little of our need for God in them.
God is Great:
Just as God looks after us, God looks after the animals and expects us to do the same as his regents on earth.
Oh Lord, we are so thankful for pets and other animals that help us to see you more clearly, and help us to understand how you see us! Thank you for such images, in the name of Jesus we pray, amen.