Following on Liz Jakimow's post "Special Attachments," Lauren Merritt of The Christian and Creation offers another valuable perspective on our tendency to value animals differently, and looks to the example of her toddler son in countering it ...
My son Daniel fell and fractured his femur several weeks ago, right before his second birthday. For almost two weeks we were stuck inside on the sofa, waiting for the pain and swelling to go down, reading books and watching movies and coloring over and over and over … and over. Finally, he was comfortable enough to move around a little bit and was able to take rides in a wagon which accommodated his large spica cast.
Our first trip out of the house in two weeks was to the Louisville Zoo. I was so excited to get out of the house and I knew Daniel would love seeing all the animals (and of course, so would I). So off we went, fifteen minutes down the highway with our new zoo pass, to see all of God’s wonderful creatures.
A funny thing happens when you go to the zoo with small children. All parents recognize and bemoan this funny little habit (often out loud, together, as families crowd around the animal enclosures), this odd perception held by child too young to know better: they don’t distinguish between the relative values we adults have given to different animals. In the pen of the grand, tall giraffes was a pond, right by the fence where visitors stood to observe (supposedly) the giraffes. But in the pond was a small flock of Canadian geese.
The children loved the geese. They talked about their feathers. They ooh’d and ahh’d as the birds groomed themselves. They laughed when they waddled into the water or flapped their wings.
By the enclosure of a monotonously pacing cougar, a little chipmunk scurried around the rocks and flowers. Daniel was enthralled by the tiny, speedy, striped creature. I held him up to see the cougar, which he called a “kiki Lilo” (after our “kitty, Philo”, the official name of all cats, lions and tigers everywhere), and then he struggled to turn around and see what else there was. Basically telling me, yeah, mom we have one of those at home, but what’s that!?
He was equally interested in the zebra and the ducks in thei pond. He didn’t care much for the lions, who were just napping (“kiki Lilo leeeping!”).
I encountered a few very frustrated parents, practically yelling at their children, “LOOK at the ZEBRAS!" But I just had to smile and laugh. It takes a child to help you remember that all animals are wonderful. Each created by God with a design unique to itself.
Of course lions and tigers don’t walk around our backyards, and elephants and giraffes are magnificent for their sheer size, and I love the graceful beauty of the many different species of antelope and deer. But still, what’s not to love about a mallard duck? They have lovely faces, soft brown eyes, glossy green feathers tipping their wings. Their waddle is sort of funny and it’s endlessly fun (if you’re two years old anyway) to watch them dunk themselves under the water. Adults, we are just so used to these creatures that they are part of a boring, static background to our daily lives. When neighborhoods with fancy landscaped ponds, or airports, or golf courses round up ducks or geese to exterminate them, very few people mind, notice, or object. But if we rounded up the lions on the savannah, or the monkeys in the jungles, all hell would break loose with all the advocates clamoring for the insanity and cruelty to stop!
Looking beyond the economics, the rights of human property owners, the concerns of land management, or endangerment, which invariably and often rightly inform our moral judgment, and just looking at the animals themselves: what’s the difference?
Is a duck more or less valuable in the eyes of God than a zebra? Did God create lions “good” and chipmunks “mediocre”? When He breathed life into each of them, did He reserve some better, more majestic spirit for the elephants, and give only the leftover breath to the geese? I don’t think we would find any such observation in Scripture.
So praise God that our little children are closer to the truth than are we. Scripture says that we all ought to come to God like little children – impressionable, trusting, and unstained by the world. I am always finding new ways in which I think that attitude, in general, is a right and good one.
Thank you Daniel for being fascinated by chipmunks and moths and ducks and sparrows. Thank you for reminding mommy that the little birds in our backyard are glorious creations of God in their own right, heedless of our comparisons of them to eagles. Thank you for bringing God praise by enjoying all that He created, unbiased by our adult concerns.
Lord help me approach You and your Creation more like a child.
(many thanks to Lauren for sharing "Animals in the Eyes of Children," originally posted on her blog The Christian and Creation; photos were actually taken by my wife Cheryl DeVries when she visited a local zoo last Spring with our son Jadon)