I have always been an animal person. I closely observe them, and I often catch them observing me. I’ll spot a bird perched on a telephone pole, intently starting at me, and I’ll wonder, What is that bird thinking about? Perhaps it’s the Native American Indian in my DNA, always cognizant of the nature surrounding me.
Once when I was a kid on a camping trip with my dad, I was following a large creek with multiple branches. I crossed some branches of this creek, then followed one of the branches, not realizing that was a very good way to get lost. If one follows a creek without branches, simply following the creek back to the starting point is easy enough, but if one deviates on one or two branches, it’s remarkably easily to get mixed up and follow a branch rather than the main creek.
Before I knew it, I crossed several branches from the main creek, and one was a feed from another creek, so I was mixed up in a web of creeks, having no idea how to get back to camp.
It was getting dark.
I was in a serious jam.
And so I sat down for a strategic pause. The thought occurred to me, should I just stay put? I’ve heard that’s the best route. It might take a day or two to get a search going, but I wouldn’t be as lost as I could potentially get if I kept moving.
But I’m a wrestles person, and I hate waiting. I’m the kind of guy that would take fifteen minutes longer to walk to the store, rather than sit at a bus stop and wait for the bus.
I immediately began to pray, God, what should I do? What direction do I go, can you please give me a sign? I’m starting to get really worried now Lord, I don’t want to spend the night freezing out here, lost. Please God, help me!
I then cleared my mind, and waited for a response.
About a minute later, I heard a wrestling in the leaves. Was that a snake? What was that? When I opened my eyes, I looked down and saw an amazing, very large lizard, on the ground directly in front of me. He was looking over his shoulder at me, eyeballing me, as if he was waiting for me to notice him.
Once I spotted him, he turned, scrambled forward about two feet, then turned and looked at me again. After a few seconds, he repeated this same behavior two more times.
What in the world? Really? What’s going on here Lord?
At this point, it occurred to me, this lizard was going in a very specific direction, straight as an arrow. Eventually he reached a point where he disappeared in the foliage.
The actions of this lizard were so bizarre, yet so very specific, I couldn’t ignore him. So I stood up and continued my conversation with the Lord.
“I’m going to trust you on this Lord. I prayed, and I saw this lizard, so here we go…”
I aimed my navigation to a tree at the furthest point in my vision, going in the exact direction the lizard was traveling. I did this despite the fact that I was afraid that was the wrong direction. It was a completely different direction I was traveling before I stopped and prayed.
Before I reached that tree, I aimed for another target, repeating the process, making sure to keep my navigation consistent in that exact direction. Within about 20 minutes, I wandered right back into our campsite with 100% accuracy!
I’m a veteran of wandering in the woods, and I usually use trail markers, but on this occasion, I lost my bearings so bad, if God didn’t send that lizard to show me the way back to camp, I’m sure I would’ve been lost, and there’s no telling how bad things might have turned out for me.
Thinking back on my Native American heritage, using the words of the Cherokee, it’s easy enough for me to conclude that The Great Spirit sent me an animal guide. I know that sounds all New Agey, and a lot of Christians might get up in arms about it, but those words may not be so far off the mark in my opinion.
Reflecting on this little experience of mine, I search the Scriptures for clues, and what do I find?
- Frogs obeyed God’s directive to infest the land of Egypt, Exodus 8.
- God gifted a donkey with the power of human speech to save a man’s life, Numbers 22:21-39.
- Oxen were directed by God to carry the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel on a cart, 1 Samuel 6.
- Wild birds fed the prophet Elijah, 1 Kings 17:2-17.
- A herd of swine committed suicide to rid the world of a legion of demons that possessed them, Mark 5:13.
- Lions obeyed God’s directive to not eat the prophet Daniel when he was locked up with them, even though they very hungry, Daniel 6.
- A Fish ate coins on the bottom of the sea, so one of the apostles could catch it and use the money to pay their taxes, Matthew 17:24-27.
- Fish sacrificed themselves at Jesus’ command, swimming into the Apostle Peter’s net, John 21:6.
Indeed, animals have assignments from God, and all of the assignments above were given to animals for the benefit of man.
But the greatest animal story ever told; the greatest animal story of all time is the story of Noah’s Ark. On this occasion, God focused specifically on the animals, for their own benefit, and not just the benefit of man. All these animals were following God’s command to save their respective species throughout the entire world.
Interestingly, the wording of Genesis 7:14-15 says the animals went to Noah, and entered the ark.
…they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.
Imagine the global scope of this mass migration of animals, both predator and prey, setting aside their natural instincts to attack each other. Instead, they entered the ark in a neat and orderly manner, two by two. Moreover, this might have even been a multigenerational migration for some of the slower species.
Perhaps these animals received a calling to leave their homes, separating from their own kind, not unlike the calling of Abraham? He left his home by faith (Hebrews 11:8), to travel to a place he had never been. These animals that preceded Abraham, likewise, may have followed a kind of instinctual call to their Promised Land that lay beyond the great flood coming their way.
Exactly what did this look like?
How odd might that have been to witness, seeing all these animals heed a peculiar calling to join the largest multispecies migration the world had ever seen, before or since.
It was these thoughts that inspired my thinking to write The Gathering: A Metaphorical Odyssey through the Scriptures, (www.MountainOfGathering.com). On this surface, this richly illustrated novel is a children’s story, yet it serves as a parable of parables, mirroring the Scriptures from one chapter to the next. And for the intellectually curious, each of the 52 chapters includes a set of commentary notes that can be used to introduce children to the Scriptures in a unique way.
We live in a mysterious world, in the midst of a vast creation, and the world of man is not the sum total of that creation. Indeed, animals do have assignments from God, and we can only imagine what God has in store for them.