"Nature is brutal." Those words have been ringing in my head for the last week now, and in the voice of the gentleman at the North Carolina Aquarium who spoke them with such certainty.
My most recent revival took Dana and me to the wonderful Victory Baptist Church in Varnamtown/Supply, North Carolina. Pastor Johnathon Ash and his family and church were such kind and gracious hosts, and the five-day meeting was a good one. But as is almost always the case when I go somewhere for a meeting, we went out and about some during the day, seeing the local sights. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher on Kure Beach and even the ferry ride over were amazing. And while we were in the aquarium, one of the highlights was the sea turtle exhibit. Nearby Oak Island is well known for being a sea turtle hatching ground, and we so happened to be there during hatching season.
The aquarium workers go each year and collect two babies out of all the hatchlings. They bring them to the aquarium, nurture and care for them for several months, then release them into the wild. And so it was that we got to see one of those precious babies, 11 months old, swimming around in a tank that everyone was able to gather round and look down into. He or she will grow to be 7 to 8 feet long and will weigh several hundred pounds. But for now, Leonardo (I am assuming it is a he since he just swims around randomly and does not seem to know where he is going) is just a cute little thing that you wish you could pick up and squeeze.
"Out of every 150 hatchlings, just one will survive," the gentleman told us. Then, as if for good measure, he once again reiterated, "Nature is brutal."
Those baby hatchlings that we regard as cute? "Nature" regards them as tasty. They are preyed upon by birds, crabs, fish and other predators. They are like a yearly buffet bar to creatures on land, in the sea and in the air. And yet, there is one part of nature that makes a difference to them: mankind.
As Dana and I walked down the beach that week, we came upon multiple places with runways bordered by green plastic sidelines. Some people paid attention to where the eggs were laid, marked off that spot with string and PVC pipe, and then just before hatching season, put those runners up. All of that is designed to keep the eggs safe and to help the turtles get heading in the right direction toward the water. And, as aforementioned, some people years ago started a wonderful aquarium to study and aid sea life and even to adopt a couple of turtles each year and make sure they survive and make it into the wild.
There is nature, and then there is something beyond nature.
Genesis 1:26-28 says, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
God created nature, and then he created man in his own image, part of nature, and yet because of that, beyond nature. He gave man the stewardship of nature and the capacity to fulfill that stewardship. And what we see in mankind, despite all of the obvious flaws we possess, is proof of that account.
Mankind builds aquariums and adopts turtles, then releases them safely into the wild. Turtles simply waddle to and from the water generation after generation, hoping to avoid being eaten by something. Mankind stops their vehicles on the side of the road, exits those vehicles, picks the goofy box turtle up out of the road and moves it to the side before some other vehicle comes along and smashes it. Box turtles simply curl up in their shell in bewilderment over why the strange bipeds continually hoist them into the grass, oblivious to the salvation they have been granted.
Mankind tags sharks to help study and keep them safe, fills feeders for the birds, rehabilitates birds with broken wings and, on occasion, even carefully removes a glass egg from a snake too dumb to realize what it has consumed. Mankind, in the case of my mother, once even reached behind the web of a writing spider to tape up a sign that said, "This is a pet; please leave it be." I must admit, I cringed a bit at that one.
Mankind is something beyond nature. God specifically hand-created us in his image, gave us nearly limitless capacity for learning and doing and then entrusted nature to our care. And that provides us both with a truth to glory in and a task to labor in. The truth to glory in is that mankind is not an animal; we are something different altogether. We are eternal souls with a temporary body and will live for all eternity in God's presence in a glorified body if we receive Christ as our Savior. The task to labor in is the stewardship of the earth that he gave us, and it did not come with an expiration date. As Christians, our task is the Great Commission, the task of winning souls to Christ. But just simply as human beings made in his image, our task is still to exercise stewardship over the earth.
Nature is brutal. It became so after the fall of man and will be so till the return of Christ. But God prepared for that ahead of time by placing caretakers over nature.
Nature cannot take care of you, but you can take care of nature.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.