I came to touch a penguin. The penguins touched me instead. One of the final announcements that I made at church before leaving for South Africa was that I wanted to touch a penguin. That was tops on my list of things to do while here.
But when I got to Simonstown and ventured down to Boulder Beach, I couldn’t bring myself to touch a penguin. They got to me first. The more I learned about the penguins, watched them, and enjoyed my time with them, the more special they became. I couldn’t bring myself to even try touching a penguin (even though I was most certainly close enough to do so) because every reason I had to try was a better reason not to touch them.
First, penguins are vulnerable. While out to sea, penguins can be attacked by killer whales, sharks and seals. On shore, there are many enemies including domestic dogs, cats and the occassional tourists (who mean no harm, I promise), who hurt penguins by interfering with them. Besides natural predators, they also contend with commercial fisherman for food. When one considers that of the millions of penguins once living, the penguins of Boulder Beach only number a couple of thousand, they’re even more vulnerable.
Second, penguins are resilient. Despite their challenges, they have proven to be a species that responds well to human cooperation. The colony I visited is the offspring of only two penguin pairs, who were used to plant the colony back in the 1980’s. Changes in fishing techniques and protective laws have allowed the penguins to flourish in Simonstown. They are survivors, telling a wonderful story of hope for other species that are endangered or threatened.
Third, penguins are faithful. A pair of penguins mate for life. For this, they have much more sense than many humans. It is refreshing to see that even in the animal kingdom, some are faithful to the end. When a penguin pair says, “til death do us part,” they mean it!
Fourth, penguins are loving. They take care of each other. Mom and dad penguins take turns caring for their young for the four months their babies need to stay on land after being hatched. When they are molting (as they were when I visited them), they prune each other’s feathers, gently caressing each other.
You see, there’s lots to love about penguins! Penguins-small, cute and innocent as are, exemplify many aspects of our life in Christ. They are living examples of many values we cherish as Christians.
We are vulnerable, but God loves us enough to meet our every need in His Son Jesus Christ. Just as the mom and dad penguins take good care of their babies, God loves and cares deeply for us. Their faithfulness to each other is a reminder that Jesus was faithful, even to dying on a cross so that we can forever know HIs love and forgiveness. Following His lead, we seek to be faithful to our friends, family and neighbors. God gave us penguins because He loves us and loves filling our hearts with joy in many ways, even by simply spending time with penguins on a South African beach.
“And this shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all of the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.” Jeremiah 33:9, ESV
Yesterday, much joy came into my heart from penguins. Where does your joy come from? Is it a truly lasting joy? If a penguin can give me such joy, what joy can God give you, both now and forever?