Saturday mornings in my childhood were special. Especially in the summer, they generally meant that we had no (or few) obligations for the day. This meant it was the closest thing to a free day as we could get. Of course, I used to love Saturday morning cartoons. As I got a bit older, there was one show in particular that I truly enjoyed watching. It was one of those narrated nature shows. Generally you never saw a human on this one, they were just narrating and teaching you about the animals and explaining what was happening as you watched the drama unfold. As an adult, I still like many of these shows (and so does my son!). Generally speaking my son and I both have a love of learning about nature and the world around us.
As my faith has matured, I can see spiritual lessons present in the way animals live and love. take for instance the zebra. Baby zebras are born with their stripes and are generally able to walk within just a few hours. They are also able to eat grass within just a few short days although mom will continue to lactate for about 16 months. What is interesting though, is that once a mother gives birth, she will remove both herself and her foal to a secluded place away from the herd for about 2 days. The reason? Intimacy. She spends so much time with her new baby that he genuinely gets to know mom's sound, smell and stripe pattern. I can't tell them apart, but zebras' stripes are as specific as our fingerprints. So for the baby zebra to learn his mother's specific makeup is important, so that he can find her once joined back with the herd.
Another lesson from the animal kingdom is the fierce group protection that elephant mothers receive. While an elephant mom is in labor, the rest of her herd (generally made up of other mothers, sisters and children) circles around her with their heads pointing away from her, guarding her from any predators that may be lurking. Once the baby is born there is a celebration and they all turn to assist in cleaning the baby using grass, mud and sticks. If there wasn't a cleaning process there would be a smelly invitation sent to all the predators around.
I think Psalm 104 is a beautiful illustration of of the praises we can send up because of the majesty we see in the natural world. I won't list it all here, but even the Psalmist points out lessons that we can learn from animals. (Homework: Read Psalm 104)
"24How countless are Your works, Lord!
In wisdom You have made them all;
the earth is full of Your creatures.
31May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in His works.
32He looks at the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the mountains,
and they pour out smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.", Psalm 104:24, 31-33 HCSB
What do these lessons mean for us as human parents? Zebras provide a short time of intimacy to make sure that this foal (baby zebra), adequately and readily knows his mother. We likewise should have a time of intimacy with our Heavenly Father so that we adequately and readily know Him. We also should be spending time with our children so much so that they can pick us out in a crowd. What can we learn from the elephant? As a congregation, we should be fiercely protective of new babes in Christ. We know that this is a time that the enemy is lurking. He can smell that someone is close to making a decision against him, but if we have formed a ring of protection around them (even if we aren't the primary one leading them to Christ), they have a better chance at growing into maturity than if we just left them to themselves.