Before I begin, let me make a couple of things perfectly clear. First of all, I am not a “tree hugger”. I do not think animals are more important than people, and I have both feet firmly planted in the pro-life camp. I have no idea why there has to be such a divide between Christianity and conservation. The Bible has plenty to say about good stewardship of God’s creation, and about having dominion, which means “to rule over” and “to take care of.” I would never place the life of an animal above that of a human being, BUT that does not mean that I do not have compassion for all of God’s creatures. If God sees every sparrow that falls, if He knows when the young ravens cry out for food, if He made certain that two of every kind of animal went on the ark, then He must regard all living things as having value. So do I. I believe that some animals were placed here to be companions for man. I think of dogs and horses especially, as these two species seem to me very different from most others in the way they relate to humans. But I have owned-and dearly loved-rats, and rabbits, and turtles, and many other kinds of critters. From them, I have learned much about life, and about the Giver of life.
I have read that, in 80 percent of investigations regarding animal cruelty, it is discovered that neglect or abuse of children, or some type of domestic violence, is also going on in the home. The way people treat animals is often an indicator of how they will treat other human beings. Many serial killers started out mistreating animals, then moved on to bullying smaller children, and it went from there all the way to murder. I am not saying that every child who commits an act of animal cruelty grows up to be a murderer, and I also realize that some people are misguided, ignorant, or mentally ill. However, repeated, wanton torture of animals just for the fun of it is not normal or acceptable.
My husband dislikes cats. He is fond of animals, but he just can’t stand most cats, with a few exceptions. Nevertheless, he would never actually harm a cat, and he has even allowed us to feed a couple of strays that were hanging around right before Hurricane Katrina. The cats holed up under our house and then vanished after the storm. My husband does not hunt but we have friends and relatives who do, and when they share venison with us, we make stew or chili and thank God for His provision. So, although we are animal lovers, we have what I consider to be a balanced attitude. We wonder in God’s amazing creation, we love and care for our pets, we do not harm anything harmless. Some people shoot the armadillos that tear up their yards, and that’s their business, but we honestly enjoy looking at the armadillos more than the grass so we leave them alone. We like to think of our home as a safe haven. For three springs in a row, a bird found her way into our laundry room, nested there, and raised her family. A wounded butterfly once lived in our house for two days, feeding on the sugar water we left out for her.
What lessons can we learn from animals? Well, there is unconditional love. There is full obedience to the Creator, what some would call instinct. Either way, it’s a lesson in how God designs us all for a special purpose. There are lessons about the cycle of life and acceptance of death. At our house, we make such friends of our animals that yes, it hurts to lose them. We grieve and we mourn, and then we let go. We all understand, our children included, that loss is part of love. Sorrow is the price we pay for loving. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.Our children came to us with wounds and scars. Their dogs and rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs, fish and turtles have been instrumental in their healing. My son would not be who he is today but for a little dog named Hermione, the first creature with whom he truly bonded. She is our angel in fur.Our horse, Legend, whom we just got for our daughter at Christmas, was a rescue who was nearly slaughtered. I have a feeling that this colt is going to have some important things to teach us, too. Many of our pets were rescues, and they have given our children a sense of true compassion. Sometimes this love for all living things causes near-chaos, like when my son rescued an injured squirrel from the road and the rodent went bonkers in our front room, or when we had to go back and pick up the broken-winged moth from the highway, or when we got two almost-dead rabbits foisted off on us (they lived, and thrived, and one is living still.) I would not trade these experiences for anything. I have had funerals for goldfish, tried to save newborn bunnies, and chased a very confused wren through the house while the dachshund tried mightily to capture and eat it. I have been bitten and scratched, knocked down, had mud tracked through the house, and cleaned up various other substances. I have sat and stroked the head of a dear companion of thirteen years while he drew his last breath. It’s been worth it, every minute.
I know that not everyone loves animals, or desires to have a bunch of pets around. But I do wish that everyone would just take a look, sometimes, and see what God’s creation has to teach us. I think that in every star, rock, tree, bunny rabbit, and hedgehog there is something He is trying to say. One of the greatest joys in life, to me, is trying to uncover those hidden messages. He speaks in many ways, and His manifold works are a part of the story. “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you.” -Job 12:7