District Fellowship News

September, October 2011

Not too long ago, I had the privilege of visiting a small zoo where for the first time I saw a species of antelope called bongos. If you were thinking this article was about drums, you are mistaken. Bongo are antelopes, one of the largest forest antelopes to be exact, and they have chestnut colored coats with white stripes to help camouflage them from their predators. Both sexes of this species have horns which are quite impressive, turning once from the base to the tip. They are a large animal weighing between 500 and 800 pounds and standing over 4 feet high at the shoulders.

The truly interesting thing about this animal was that I had never seen one before, not even in a picture. Here I was after all these years of reading encyclopedias and books, visiting zoos and aquariums, perusing stories and pictures on the internet, and I was standing 20 feet from an animal I had no clue existed in the world. This encounter brought me to three realizations.

1. The wonder of creation...I was quite familiar with the tan coat of the whitetail deer or the dark brown of the moose. I had seen white, black, brown, blonde dogs. But to see an animal with a bright chestnut colored coat that in some of the more mature males turns towards mahogany was a surprise. Certainly going around the park I had seen parakeets, parrots, and peacocks that were brightly colored. I had been to aquariums where bright red or yellow fish swam in the tanks, but to see a 500 pound red antelope standing out against the green grass of his cage area was different. My first thought was, “No wonder I’ve never seen these creatures, they’d all be dead in a week in the wild with that color scheme.” But the truth is the pattern of stripes and the color of their coat makes them practically invisible in their native environment. Walking from place to place, I could only marvel at the variety and differences in each and every species. Do you really think that DNA (the source code of our variety) just happened accidentally, that there was no design?

2. The smallness of me…I believe that I have been exposed to a large amount of knowledge in my lifetime so far.  When I was young, a salesman came to our door selling encyclopedias, and my parents decided that we should have this information tool in our house. On rainy days I would grab the next volume and start reading through it. I loved to read and for some reason I liked information. Even today, you can ask me about a variety of topics and I can give you a far amount of detail about them, sometimes more than I should admit, but I certainly do not, can not, and will not in this lifetime crack the surface of the vast knowledge that exists. No matter how intelligent you believe you are, how learned, how much information you have stored in your memory, you cannot begin to fathom the vastness of this creation. There is only one who is omniscient, only one who knows all there is to know. When I met a new creature I had not even heard of (and this was not the only one. Did you know the capybara is the largest rodent species in the world—think cute hamster weighing 140 lbs) living in this world that we have explored and viewed and reported on until it seems like there was nothing we didn’t know, I realized we still know only a small part of the whole story. God is big, we are small.

3. The reality of life...The principles of camouflage that help the bongo survive, or the herd mentality of herbivores that protect the young, the fierceness of small birds that attack and ward off larger species or the understanding of some species of monkeys to use a stick to retrieve grubs from a hole, these are all things that can be used by a species to survive, but in reality you and I could remove every one of those species from earth. Although we have been trying to deny it for a century, man is different from all the other species that exist. We are made in the image of the creator, not necessarily the physical image, but God breathed life into man. The beautiful white tiger was an impressive animal. Truthfully, I would have no chance against him if I were to meet him in the wild by myself, but yet it would take less than a year for mankind to bring about the extinction of this magnificent animal, and that is the case for every species. Some would take longer of course, but the results would still be the same. We are different, and we must accept that reality. There is great privilege in being made in God’s image, but there is also great responsibility. We must stop acting like the animals and begin acting like the One in whose image we are made.

 Wonder, smallness, and reality...three ideas that put together balance man’s rightful position, with his solemn responsibilities. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 (NIV)