I was kayaking yesterday with my wife and two good friends. It was our first time at sea with a group since the COVID restrictions went into effect three months ago. My wife and I live in La Paz, a coastal city on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, which in my observation is about the best place on earth; and I have been to a lot of places on this planet. My wife and I run a small NGO called Reconciliamar. Our goal is to “use adventures at sea to transform lives.” Since the sins of injustice, environmental degradation, and poverty all start with human misbehavior at the personal level, prior to them becoming systemic, we use our NGO to go after the source of the problem. We work at transforming the person and digging out the root cause of all suffering where it starts. There is little point to putting up the trellis after the tomatoes have already been picked.
Trying to stop society’s sins without first solving individual sin is no more effective now than it was during the US prohibition on January 17, 1920, or thinking that the civil rights successes of the 1960s would end racism, or that polluting our environment could be stopped with a law on paper. Laws have never changed a person’s heart in the past, they don’t in the present, and they never will in the future. Having said this, we do get involved in beach clean-ups, participate in protests against open pit mining and in events to eliminate violence against women and children, do pro-life marches, and distribute food to the needy. However, we recognize that as important as these things are, they do nothing more than point out a symptom.
The four of us paddled over coral reefs more congested with life than a Hong Kong apartment complex, and into a small, shallow, and remote bay ringed by a healthy mangrove forest. Tucked into the shoreline among the mangrove trees are occasional tiny sandy beaches. As we headed to one of the beaches, we paddled past an empty fish camp consisting of nothing but the temporary shacks used by local fishermen to spare them the time and fuel necessary to go all the way back to town. The camp has probably not been used since the COVID 19 crisis began. As we paddled by, we heard two meowing cats. The cats not only cried out to us, they ran along the beach parallel to us, continuing to yowl and cry as they ran. Because we live in a very arid desert and because the camp was abandoned, we assumed the cats were looking for water. Two of us paddled to shore. I took the lid off of one of my water bottles and filled it, using the lid as a small cup for the cats. The cats ignored the water. Instead they rubbed themselves on my friend’s legs and they purred as she petted them. One of the cats jumped up to be cradled in her arms. We had thought the cats wanted water. No, they wanted us.
Moments before, we had been paddling with about 50 or 60 sea lions. They probably had had no human visitors in three months. (Actually, I confess I did paddle out to them once before the stay-at-home order was lifted. I was by myself so posed no COVID risk to myself or anyone else). It was clear that the sea lions were happy to have us back as they swam up to us, rolled in the water next to us and cavorted around us like puppies.
Cats and sea lions were happy to see us. Dolphins, orcas, whales, and manta rays, when confident of safety, love to be with people. The two cats rubbing up against my friend made me think of a favorite quote from C.S. Lewis, a well-known Christian philosopher and author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” a series of books (and now movies) in which there are deep friendships between children and animals and in which there is interspecies spoken communication. Lewis says, “The higher animals are in a sense drawn into Man when he loves them and makes them (as he does) much more nearly human than they would otherwise be.”
I am a Jesus follower. One of my favorite Scriptures is in the Epistle to the Colossians where Paul writes about the “reconciliation of all things” as the expected future. Reconciliation means to take things back to their original state, their original intent, the original relationship. The hope, passion, desire and goal of my life and that to which I am dedicated is the reconciliation of all things. As crazy and impossible as they may seem in today´s world, I believe these words to be true. I believe that the reconciliation of all things is not just theoretical. Someday it will be real. Unfortunately, selfishness, blame casting, refusing to accept responsibility for personal behavior, virtue signaling, and pointing out the sins of others while ignoring our own is keeping us far, very far from our longed-for unity. All it takes is ten minutes on Facebook and seeing the angry pontifications of people with a cause to see where the problem lies and why we will never attain reconciliation without divine intervention.
We take people to sea on kayaking trips or for SCUBA diving. We talk about sin and evil and the need for repentance, repentance being not simply feeling bad for having been caught but acknowledging the wrong we have done and making an attempt at restitution. It includes the cessation of doing that which time and time again has proven so very painful to us. We try to help our friends understand that transformed, renewed, and repurposed people can and do make a difference. Our dream can be summed up in the fabulous 2001 song by Glenn L. Rudolph, “The Dream Isaiah Saw,” in his response to 9/11. The lyrics were written by Thomas H. Troegera and found in the book Borrowed Light: Hymn Texts, Prayers, and Poems published by Oxford University Press in 1994. The source document for Troegera´s poem is Isaiah 11. CLICK HERE to listen to Rudolph’s majestic song. The second time you listen, if you have a heart capable of feeling, you will sing along. The lyrics are printed below. You will not be the same person afterward. Crank it up good and loud!
Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay, Leopards will join with the lambs as they play, Wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade, Blood will not darken the Earth that God made.
Little child whose bed is straw, Take new lodgings in my heart. Bring the dream Isaiah saw: Life redeemed from fang and claw.
Peace will pervade more than forest and field: God will transfigure the Violence concealed Deep in the heart of systems gain, Ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.
Little Child whose bed is straw, Take new lodgings in my heart. Bring the dream Isaiah saw: Justice purifying law.
Nature reordered to match God’s intent, Nations obeying the call to repent, All of creation completely restored, Filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.
Little child whose bed is straw, Take new lodgings in my heart. Bring the dream Isaiah saw: Knowledge, wisdom, worship, awe.
Looks to me like you teared up a bit.