A swimming lesson

A swimming lesson

I am struck by the timing of this moment.

Here we are, my good friend and I, stopping by a beaver pond on a hike, at the very moment this little eft is about to greet the water.

Context would help.  Red-spotted newts, my knowledgeable friend tells me, hatch in water in the spring and by autumn, lose their gills.  This forces them up onto land, where they will live for the next three to four years.  Then, heeding an internal call, they make their way back to water where they live out the rest of their lives as aquatic adults.

We had come across these little guys (and gals?) trudging across the trail a fair distance from the pond.  So, finding one right at the moment of re-entering the pond was significant.  This was an end of a four-year journey.

Not surprisingly, I thought of what I had read earlier in Isaiah.  Been doing that a lot this year.

The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
     the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise.  (Isaiah 43:20-21)

Creatures gravitate toward water.  It is how they are constructed: to either live in it, or to have it live in them.

What a great picture for how we need the Lord.  But more pointedly, like the eft finding its way back to its original environment, we have an intended habitat.  We are formed to praise God.

Does it strike you as odd that God wants praise?  For some years I wrestled with this.  It seems so self-serving.  “Everyone,” says the LORD, “should praise ME!”  But then I considered how God defines love as giving and serving another.  It’s what the Godhead has been doing for infinity.  Father, Son and Spirit honoring and blessing each other, even within the singleness of God.

So, when he created us to praise him, he made us able to join this ecosystem of love.  For we can only enter in a giving mode, for love is an action, not a passive receiving.  Surely, our relationship with God is predicated upon our receiving his grace, but we don’t find our place in the “water” of love until we give him our praise.

Life is a long journey toward our original purpose.  But though the fullness of our experience of praise awaits us in the next life, we don’t have to wait to grow accustomed to it.  To anticipate it.

I wish I had taken a photo of the newt the moment it reached the water.  There was no tentativeness.  No splashing as it readjusted to the water.  The second it submerged, it disappeared with a flick of its tail.

All those years of wandering.  It still knew how to swim.

Heavenly Father, you have made us to praise you.  And it is a great and loving gift, for in raising you high, we find our hearts are raised, as well, and are blessed.  Teach us to live in this ecosystem of praise.

Reader:  What has helped you become more natural in your praise of God?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.