God, You Save Both Humankind and the Beasts

March 10, 2021
Gloria Austerberry, Certified Spiritual Director

“God, you save both humankind and the beasts.”  Psalm 36:6

Consider the small animals in our recent cold snap

It was the coldest day.  The snowscape beyond my window was still.  Then a perky squirrel scampered into view.  It promptly began digging, digging, down into the snow, doing what squirrels do to uncover their buried nuts for winter nourishment.  I wondered how much Arctic air this small creature could endure, its tail shaking so in the cold.  It, too, seemed to wonder when it paused and trotted off a few feet to take stock of the situation.  Then it scurried back to its hole with new resolve, perhaps reassured that no predators were threatening nearby.

Next, pawing furiously again, it burrowed deeper and almost disappeared, with only the top of the tail visible above the snow.  At last, our little friend found its nut, bounded up into a tree, and sat munching contentedly on the downwind side of the trunk.

I witnessed the brave perseverance and victory of my backyard squirrel, when I had, only a few seconds before, written prayers of supplication in my journal.  The last request was “Keep the small animals and birds safe in the extreme cold.”  It was a heartfelt plea.  

People can get severe frostbite after a short time of exposure to such temperatures.  The scene that unfolded was a fast answer to prayer, yes, but also a stunning revelation of the squirrel’s instincts for survival.  Besides, it was a humbling reminder of Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”  The ant was to the grasshopper as today’s industrious squirrel was to me.  All I had to do for lunch was open the refrigerator and grab the goodies!

God calls us to check out the systems we humans have set up.  How amply do they serve the human needs of all?  By the law given to Moses, the stories of Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself, the plain standard is neighborliness. 

gloria austerberry

The frigid temperatures also affected people!

Only a few days later more Arctic air moving further across the Great Plains. It forced millions of southerners to fight for survival as widespread power outages left them vulnerable to unaccustomed cold and unsafe water supplies.  Various solutions allowed most to survive, but sadly, some did not.  Journalists, policy-makers, and others will strive to make sense of it for quite some time into the future.  A person of faith asks herself “Where do I find God in this?”  “How do I pray about this?”

How do we help each other in our need?

Ash Wednesday, the first day of the church season called Lent, brings words of truth, in case we are not already paying attention.  “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  With these words, the worship leader presses a cross of oil and ash on each of our foreheads, preparing us for the forty days in which we can review our human situation within God’s creation.  

God calls us to check out the systems we humans have set up.  How amply do they serve the human needs of all?  By the law given to Moses, the stories of Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself, the plain standard is neighborliness.  

Just as I had to lift my eyes from the page of writing before me to see a squirrel’s drama of strength and survival, we must open our eyes to see the world, to see people around us, and imagine the parts we each can play for justice and peace that is the heart of God.

Lent culminates in Easter, God’s message of victory over death in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. This is our faith, for Easter Day and every day, that God is trustworthy and desires that we and all creation enjoy abundant life.

Questions for reflection:  

How do the wonders of creation speak to me of God’s goodness?
Can writing prayers in a journal bring me closer to God?
What passages of Scripture speak of God, heaven, and earth?  Of justice?

Gloria Austerberry, Certified Spiritual Director

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