Thursday, August 10, 2017

River Otter Education

I have previously written about how adult Osprey teach their young to fly and said that it is delicate business because they really only get one chance to try and there can be no failures. Recently, I saw some video of a mother river otter teaching her pup to swim. The pups are born without the ability to swim or dive but their food supply is almost entirely underwater. This necessitates that they learn to swim so that they can eat.

The video showed the extreme teaching methods of the otter. The pup did not want to learn to swim. He had to learn to swim. The mother dragged him down to the water’s edge and threw him in the water. The pup spluttered his way to the surface as his thick fur kept him buoyant. Before he was able to truly catch his breath, his mother dragged him down to the bottom of the pool of water. He struggled to the surface and she plunged him back down. This recurring process went on for several minutes and appeared quite cruel to the on-lookers, but at the end of it the pup was grabbing full strokes of water with his front legs and paws, and was truly swimming and becoming proficient at diving to the bottom. A few more lessons would be needed but this pup was well on the way to becoming a star student.

The spiritual lessons are likely obvious to many, but allow me to make them explicit. We are very much like this pup. We are born into this world through no fault or favour of our own. We arrive at the whim of God and the decisions of our parents. We do not know how to swim or any of the other things we need to do in this world. We do know how to breath but could never feed ourselves or protect ourselves from the dangers of a cold night or a busy street. Our parents and our Heavenly Parent drag us into situations in which we must learn. The lessons are not gentle. In fact, the lessons are never easy. That ancient progenitor of hard-ship Job,[1] could tell us stories of lessons learned from the hard training of God. Job had wealth, status, family, and health. The Accuser asked God to let him take it all away and God allowed it. Job learned a lesson about the nature of life on earth and who God is in relation to God’s creation. It was not a pleasant lesson – okay, that’s an under-statement – it was an extremely unpleasant lesson. Job did learn from the lesson. His answer to God is summed up as, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Not exactly a, “Thank you for the lessons you taught me, Dad,” but grateful just the same. To put it another way, Job realized that God is the potter and Job is the clay. “When a potter makes jars out of clay, he has the right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into.”[2] Yet, God is patient and uses even cracked and fragile clay jars for his purposes.[3]

So, what do I yet need to learn? What hard lessons might God have for me? Because of his great love for me, I can trust that they will be appropriate for this stage of my learning curve. "He is the potter, I am the clay;" He is the mother otter, I am the pup. 

[1] Read about him in Job 1-42 in your Bible.
[2] Paraphrase of Romans 9:21, 22.
[3] See 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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