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Animal Encounters Series: Creatures Great and Small

Nothing in creation exists in and by itself.

The soul of every creature is derived from the one Soul.

God, therefore, is not simply in every creature but is the essence of every creature.

At heart, creation – including our creatureliness – is a showing forth of the mystery of God.

~ J. Philip Newel, The Book of Creation: An introduction to Celtic Spirituality

Last year, when my husband and I were enjoying decorating the front porch with Christmas lights, an injured squirrel came to us. He approached slowly, intentionally, and laid across the toe of my husband’s work boot. We gently examined him and found a large twig impaled in his abdomen.

He was bleeding badly, his breathing labored. It was a cold day, so we warmed up a bed of pine needles with a flashlight and laid him there. We sat quietly with him and delicately stroked his fur with a single finger. After several minutes, his bright eyes dulled, and his breathing stopped. The evening took on a new feeling. We were reminded that joy is sometimes fleeting. And I was reminded of my own creatureliness, my own vulnerability and need for care.

I find it necessary to approach God when I am hurting. When I am disabled enough from my pain that I must step out of my busyness, I seek comfort from a source greater than myself. In a sense, I drag myself to the foot of God and collapse. Then God gently carries me and stays with me while I suffer.

In this comparison, I do not mean to say that humans stand in place of the creator for our animal companions. We do not. But we are called to be the compassionate hands and feet of God in a world that needs comfort and presence. All created creatures have need of each other.

Physical pain can be intense, and unmistakable. Emotional pain can be intolerable and unbearable as well. And, for human beings, spiritual pain can be the source of deep and enduring suffering. It can be overlooked for lack of knowing how to describe it. Spiritual distress may be confusion about our source, uncertainty about meaning and purpose, or disconnection from the “so what” of life. Many times it can feel like a heavy hurt that is beyond words. When pain of any sort exists in you, I hope you will allow someone to sit with you. Reach out to a professional, a spiritual director, a counselor, a pastor, or simply a good friend.

I know that one day God will be with me when my eyes dull and my breathing stops. But until then, with help, I will try to continue to acknowledge my pain and my need for the care and support of my creator, and all creatures who journey with me. I also know that when I am allowed to sit with another in their pain, in their searching, in their moments of need, I participate in the perfection of a created order that I desire to know more fully.

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