Friday, February 20, 2009

Giraffes that Teach Lessons?

I have always loved giraffes. I can even remember writing a report about them in the 4th grade. To this day, I marvel at how God came up with a creature so unique in construction, pattern and physical grace. Just yesterday I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine about a unique species of giraffe that live in Niger. The article only made me appreciate these beautiful creatures even more.

One of the most interesting things I learned about them is that they enjoy being in the company of other giraffes. Apparently, they are very affectionate and enjoy being in constant physical contact. They can often be found intertwining necks or walking so close together that their flanks touch.

I can appreciate their need for contact. Their need to be with others. I think if I were to become an animal perhaps I would be a giraffe because I am acutely aware of my need to be with others. I have become more and more aware of this need over the last year as I have been working from home.

While this affords me a great deal of flexibility in my life and schedule, what it doesn't afford me is the opportunity to be with people. I have no one to share lunch with, no one to share a quick chat with, no one to help me break up the monotony of my day with a smile or a laugh. And there are some days I feel that I will go crazy! Sure my husband comes home in the evenings -- and I'm grateful for his company when he does -- but for 10 and a half hours of the day I'm alone -- and I miss people!

The story of the giraffe's need for contact resonates with me. And not only that, I believe it illustrates something about human nature. (Well, I guess it's giraffe nature, but I'm going to extrapolate a bit!) I believe that God made us to be in community with others. We were never meant to be alone. God has placed in our hearts a desire to connect, share and relate to others. To meet the needs of others and to have our needs met by them. This includes all type of needs -- from physical and material to emotional, spiritual and relational.

This morning as I did my daily devotions -- I was struck by Acts 27:3 where it says that "Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs." I can just picture Paul hopping off the boat and showing up at the front door of a friend --perhaps a bit bedraggled and worn out from the journey and his constant trials. Then, this friend just swings wide the door and begins to meet his needs--to feed him, to encourage him, to listen to him, to just be with him -- what a beautiful picture of friendship! And I wonder, if a friend just showed up at my door or yours -- would we be willing to put aside all of our pre-arranged plans to do the same?

I have been reading a lot about the importance of small groups in the church lately -- and how it is most often through relationships, and God working through relationships, that we become transformed and healed and able to become more of the people that God wants us to be. Not only do I believe this, I can see how it has been at work in my own life -- although I never would have been able to pinpoint exactly how it worked before. But all the reading I've been doing lately has really got me thinking. . . What is our purpose in life if not to provide for the needs of our friends? And not just our friends -- but anyone in need. (And not to judge those needs trying to determine whether or not they are "worthy" of meeting -- but just to meet them!)

I am proud that my church's mission statement echoes this idea:

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

I believe that people's lives will change not just when we meet their needs, but when we do so through loving relationships. I also believe that God wastes nothing -- nothing at all. Funny, isn't it, how He can use a giraffe to teach me more about myself and how He wants me to live?

As I write this blog while sitting in my living room, I'm staring at two framed paintings/photos of giraffes. Another hangs over my bed. (I told you I liked giraffes!) Not only does God teach me. . . He finds ways to constantly remind me!

1 comment:

  1. My comment section wasn't working. . let's see if I can fix it!