As a child, I used to be surprised and hurt that animals did not come closer. I constantly dreamed of little chickadees resting in my hand, squirrels perched on my shoulder, fawns nuzzling my cheek, but today with Anna the cat on my lap, longing for my touch, I am amazed that she trusts me at all. "We've killed your kind by the droves," I want to tell her. "We slash and burn your homes, we tie you up to work our fields, we eat you, turn you to glue-- why should you trust me?" And yet, as Scripture teaches us, all of the animal kingdom groans for the kingdom of God to come, for the princes and princesses, sons and daughters of God to be revealed. They hold no grudges, but I am not surprised that they are wired to run at the sound of my steps. And yet, here on my lap, nuzzling my cheek, is a first fruit, all fur and purr, of the peaceable kingdom.
These are not the rantings of a vegetarian animal activist, but just a musing of gratefulness and wonder that there is a life so other than me that lets me love it up close. Wonder too that God would allow His creatures to be subject to such frustration, would even call us to smear their innocent blood over our front doors, slit their throats at the temple until their life rushed out over our altars and we understood the cost of sin. And even now in factories, living in their own feces, or dying in polluted waters, being hunted to extinction, they display in graphic ways the cost of our sin and in doing so point us to the slain Lamb.
As I hold this cat, there are tens of thousands of chickens, bred too fat to walk, who are pumped full of chemicals that enable them to unnaturally survive their tortuous environment until they are slaughtered. There, waiting in cages, they groan on my behalf, waiting for me to be revealed as glorious, spotless and pure. How is that fair? The answer is it's not, but this is the grace God gives to us through every living being, through the creation we were called to steward as a gardener but have plundered as a thief. Today during church a toddler suggested that we pray for giraffes. We laughed, of course, but it is no small thing. Even on the African plains, the giraffe is my close companion in longing. Call me crazy, but my hope is that one day I will get to apologise to her and to God for the part I've played, and she will lick my face with her long black tongue. Until then, I will enjoy my cat and listen to the birds sing outside my window with wonder and delight.