How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
During our vacation in Kenya, we went on a safari to the Masai Mara wildlife preserve. It was my (Kristi’s) first-ever safari, and I loved it! In the short 2 days that we had in the park, We saw lots of animals…some I had never heard of! Did you know that just within the antelope family, the hartbeast, the reedbuck, waterbuck, the dik dik, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, and the Eland are all common in Kenya?? I was continually amazed at the variety in different species, and how the species interact with each other. We observed how the zebra and gazelle often graze together, and that the Topi can often be seen standing atop a small mound of earth (however small!) as if they are a sentry. We watched in fascination as a mixed herd of impala and wildebeast all stared intently and stood unmoving as a cheetah and her cubs walked by.
The word “safari”, in Swahili, simply means a journey….but for us westerners it has come to mean a journey with the primary goal of seeing wild animals in Africa in their natural habitats. Birdwatching is a new hobby for me this year, and I felt like I got to go on a “safari” for birds also when I joined the Nature Kenya society for one of their weekly birdwalks. I struggle to see and identify birds…often I find myself staring at a tree for 15 minutes at a time, listening to a bird singing and knowing that it is in that tree, but failing to locate it. Kids’ books might simplify a bird’s voice to something like “cheep cheep!”. But anyone who has listened to a thrush or a bulbul or a robin-chat in Africa knows that they have elaborate and melodious songs! The more birds I learn to see and hear, the more amazed I become at the variety in their songs, shapes, colors, sizes, and behaviors!
During our week in Zanzibar, we went snorkeling one day in the coral reef off the coast. We stared in wonder at the bright colors on some of the fish, and the variety in shapes and sizes. One fish was long and narrow – like an eel – and another had a string-like tail flowing from its top fin. Some zebra-striped, some with bold spots, some narrow and tall, others small and sprite. Why did God bother creating such extravagant variety?? We commented afterward that we felt like we had been on a “safari in the sea”.
Just on the grounds of the hotel in Zanzibar, I saw more than 6 varieties of butterfly. Zanzibar has more than 50 varieties of butterfly in its national park! Have you ever stopped to wonder why some butterflies have spots, others plain, and others intricate designs like a stained-glass window? Wow!
We stand in wonder at the majesty of God as we enjoy the beauty of His creation. Imagine how much less interesting the world would be if there were only one type of bird, or fish, or cat, or tree…or if each person was the same. Enjoying these creatures was fun – but we realize that it is getting harder to see them as their habitats get reduced and more remote and many threaten to disappear. I was reminded of our calling to be responsible stewards of God’s creation – a task that gives God glory and also preserves our opportunity for seeing God’s fingerprints in the world around us.
What is the purpose of the earth and all of these amazing creatures? Are they just for our benefit? What is the impact of our every-day life on the earth? What will the earth be like in just 30 years if the devastating effects of deforestation, pollution and our level of trash dumping are not drastically changed? I just read a very helpful book called Redeeming Creation written by Fred VanDyke and others. It gives some grounded Biblical perspective the relationship between God, creation, and humanity. I highly recommend it!
…And if I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings. But I just thank you Father for making me, me!