According to the Puffins…
Atlantic Puffin, Maine Coast
Even little birds can give us lofty thoughts. To some, puffins simply raise questions about genetics and adaptive mutations and behaviors. But in the larger context, these little birds are but one of creation’s vast array of variations and adaptations which not only challenge imaginations and serious scientific investigations but also philosophic explanations about meaning and purpose.
Birds of all kinds, including doves, eagles, herons, ravens, ostriches, vultures, owls, hens, and sparrows, are used symbolically in scripture. The prophet Jeremiah used vultures as examples of how foreign nations would devour Israel. Job’s limited understanding and faulty perceptions about God’s justice were contrasted with God’s omniscience and wisdom when he was presented with puzzling questions about the natural world- such as how does the hawk know how to migrate or the eagle behave as it does? “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? (Job 39)
Although puffins are not mentioned by name in the Bible, they are our co-inhabitants in this immense, mind-boggling, complicated universe with its strange planets, spectacular heavens, delicately balanced moving parts, and amazing creatures of limitless color combinations, shapes, forms, adaptations and complex behaviors.
Several Maine coastal islands are breeding grounds for the unique and fascinating Atlantic puffin, the only one of three puffin species to float around the North Atlantic ocean. Spending most of their lives at sea, they come to land specifically for breeding purposes. They are small, playful, monogamous bird with a life span of up to 20 years. Sporting large colorful beaks and bright orange legs which give them a clownish look, they live in colonies called a “circus” or a “puffinry”. After breeding season, the outer layers of their beaks shed, becoming smaller and duller. They eat fish, dive up to two hundred feet to catch their meal, and can carry up to ten fish at a time because of a specialized tongue enabling them to hold fish in their throat and beak. And they can swim and fly with wings that beat up to 400 beats per minute.
These astonishing birds are but one of myriads of puzzling worldly inhabitants. That thought brings us to the realization that we humans are connected to and part of something really big! So, our minds search for insight into meaning and purposes. Our spirits seek validation. We long for something beyond relationships, wealth, power, sex, or prestige for spiritual fulfillment. And puffins remind us to “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?…..Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:26-33 (NLT2)
This small bird turns out to be but one example of God’s creativity, purposeful design, and wisdom. They are representatives of His common grace and care for all creatures great and small. And they bring us to consideration of God’s special grace to those who seek him.
Once some Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod had Jesus on his hit list. Jesus told them to tell “that fox” that he was not intimidated and would continue his healing ministry to the spiritually and physically sick. Then he said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” Luke 13:24; Matthew 23:37 NLT2) Putting this into a spiritual perspective, Jesus said, “… do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:28-30 (ESV) Like small birds we need God’s protection, and those who reverence God and seek His redemptive help are eternally protected.
So, Christ identified the ones he will help and protect. He never imposes himself. He came “ to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) and “… to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” He said that “healthy people don’t need a doctor-sick people do.” (Matthew 9:11-13 (NLT2) Those statements are all inclusive because there are “none righteous”; nobody is exempt; no one lives a perfectly moral life. Our imperfections of attitudes or behavior are called sin. We are all eligible for Christ’s healing when we seek God’s grace and soul provision through faith.
According to the puffins, God loves us and will “cover us with His pinions/And under His wings we may seek refuge/ His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” (Psalm 91:4