Schools of shimmering cigar-shaped fish glide through the kelp forest at the Monterey Acquarium. Senoritas, the sign says. A mesmerizing sight. Brightly colored with a metallic bronze sheen, these small creatures weave through the water with agile grace creating glittery ribbons in the current. In my mind I hear soothing strains of "Aquarium" by Saint-Saens, a movement from the "Carnival of the Amimals" suite. As I watch, small pods break off from the whole and double back, enveloping the remainder as if swallowed whole, only to cluster on the opposite side where they seamlessly reorganize to reunite with the group. Whirling in endless patterns, varying in shape, complexity, and composition, continuous loops circle and regroup. How do they know who to follow? Or what arrangement comes next? Only Almighty God, the Great Maestro and Choreographer, could direct such a dance. I ponder life lessons from sea creatures:
- Community provides safety.
In the sea-life food chain, smaller fish get eaten by larger fish. When littles stay together, they protect each other. Stragglers risk being picked off. Same with people. We're meant to live in community. Isolation increases vulnerability to depression, disease (physical and mental) and the likelihood of yielding to temptation. God created Man to serve each other in community. John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
- Adaptability is essential for sustaining life.
The variety of environments where sea life flourishes amazes me. Sandy sea bottoms, craigs, rocks, pier pillars, open sea, kelp forests, choral reefs, near the shore and more. Within each habitat, sea creatures adapt to survive. Same for us. Life is unpredictable and fickle. Just when I think I've figured out how to live with my current situation, boom! Everything changes. Something new to accept. I resist at first, but if I seek contentment, adaptability is essential. To refuse is to subject myself to misery. Gratitude is key. "...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:18.
- All that catches the eye is not good.
Jellyfish are incredibly beautiful. Their gelatinous forms undulate through the water, slow, fluorescent, colorful. Again, I hear music. This time Ravel's Mother Goose (Ma Mere L'Oye)--rich, luxurious, elegant tones minus any brass instruments. Umbrella-shaped bells with trailing tentacles captivate my attention. Watching these creatures float through the water relaxes tension, making me forget to keep my guard up. But those long ruffled tentacles spell danger. They can cause injury or even death. My mom used to say, "All that glitters is not gold." Tempatations masquerade as things of beauty and desirability. 2 Corinthians 11:14, "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." Note to self for the new year: beware of flashy and sparkly things that draw you away from following the path of prudent spending or mindful living; that make you forget your determination to let God guide you into self-control.
- God can tame "predators".
Sharks fall somewhere at or near the top of the sea-life food chain. These predators regulate the population of species below them. Of the more than 465 types of sharks in the world, the aquarium in Monterey houses a fair representation. But how do they safely inhabit a huge aquarium populated by many smaller fish? Answer: A regular feeding routine. At certain hours, a diver with a curious covered bucket enters the tank. The fish swim toward him as he scatters a handful of small shining fish through the water. Then he moves on to another location. In this environment, sharks will not bother the smaller fish. Regular time with God keeps me from danger. A routine that includes morning devotion, studying God's Word, prayer, and listening to God aligns my heart with the heart of the Father. I am less vulnerable to temptation in this frame of mind, more likely to trust God for whatever happens in the day. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.…" Proverbs 3:5,6.
- Details matter to God.
The incredible beauty of the underwater world leaves me speechless. Magical diversity coexists in harmony and balance. Neon colors of red, orange, yellow and blue. Varying sizes and unconventional shapes, these fanciful worlds under our vast oceans provide otherworldy glimpses of the infinite creativity of Almighty God. While praying and contemplating the possible sale of our house recently someone asked me whether I really believed that God cares where I live. At the Aquarium the answer is clear. If God cares about every tiny detail in the sea, if He knows the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7 and Matthew 10:30), if He watches over me wherever I go (Psalm 121:5), if He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11), He certainly cares about everyday things like where I live.
At the Monterey Aquarium, I considered new goals for 2019. I desire a greater understanding of God's perspective, to ground my hopes and pursuits on His grace and celebrate ALL He has done and is doing. I want to live in gratitude, to seek freedom from all that weighs me down and robs me of the abundant life Jesus came to bring. To dive into the fullness of God's goodness, grace, and mercy because there I will find hope through every trial. These are attainable goals because God cares about every detail of my life.
How about you? Are you seeing God's hand wherever you go? Are you looking? What spiritual lessons would He teach you? Will you turn and seek Him today as you begin a new year?
Happy New Year, my friends! May you feel Jesus near each day of the year.
You won't be sorry.