I like whales, particularly those of the dolphin family. I’m fascinated by them – absolutely sucked in and intrigued any time I am exposed to a documentary on one. The two times I got to personally interact with them (swimming with dolphins in Key Largo and an orca whale watch tour in the San Juan Islands of Washington) were magical, even spiritual. As someone who loves the Word, I have thought a lot about what it is that draws me to these animals. Is it some type of unspiritual mysticism? Am I being sucked into an unbiblical elevation of animals to a level God doesn’t give them? I’ve wrestled with these things. I don’t have any believing friends who share with me my fascination with whales and my concern over the conservation of their habitat.
So what is it about whales? I experience something similar with my dogs. And some people see the same in horses. They mesmerize us because, though they don’t say words, they communicate. And sometimes they communicate with shocking clarity. It might be the clarity of a two year old, but coming from a mute member of an animal family, it’s still shocking and profound.
It’s interesting that in the Garden of Eden, no one seems shocked when a snake talks to Eve. Later on when the donkey talks to Balaam, he’s shocked. But in perfection, the lack of shock implies that this was normal. Perhaps animals talked in perfection. Certainly they were different in the Garden. They were at peace. It wasn’t eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. In perfection, Adam perhaps laid with lions. Maybe Eve swam with orcas. And sometimes, when I see a documentary like this, I’m reminded that some animals still bear resemblances of what God created them to be in perfection. There’s Luna, the lonely orca whale who insisted that people and dogs be his friends. Then there’s Tillicum who kills his trainer at SeaWorld. Maybe animals reflect the interplay between God’s perfect creation and all that was ruined by the fall just as we do, albeit with much less spiritual significance according to Scripture.
So when Luna the whale stares at me through the lens of the camera, or when the dolphin in Key Largo comes back to get me after I slip off his fin as he pulls me through the water, I think of what interactions between humans and animals were like in perfection. And what they may be again when God’s kingdom to come is fully realized. God didn’t create animals for their functionality alone. There was something “good” about their creation long before the first animal was killed for food and clothing after the fall. As I write this, my 12 year old arthritic chow mix dog limps past me and settles by us on the floor. It’s not exactly the lion with the lamb. Just a chow with a 3 year old. But it makes me think.