"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)
Ocean creatures are fascinating. They were created in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. They have astonishing features and awe-inspiring capabilities that shout of the ingenuity and creativity of our God. Yet I find that one of the most interesting things about spending time underwater is the opportunity to observe animal behavior. Scientists that spend time interacting with animals such as seals, sea lions, otters, whales, dolphins, sharks and marine birds are astonished to discover that various animals have personalities. Some appear to be cautious. Others curious. Some methodical. Others haphazard and clumsy.
Considering how little we know about the marine environment and its creatures, I like to think that perhaps personality might extend to sea urchins. If not, they certainly display the humor of their Creator. There are several species regularly seen in South Florida such as the variegated urchin or short-spined sea urchin that use bits of sea shells and debris to camouflage themselves from predators. This behavior is something that I have seen repeatedly during my ventures underwater.
One thing I have noted, however, is that different sea urchins seem to prefer different types of debris. Some are minimalists, preferring small bits of shell or leaves. Others display a flair for the dramatic, balancing long sticks on the top of their bodies that are so precariously perched it seems like any type of wave action or current will quickly sweep them away. Others, such as this sea urchin, go for total coverage, finding the largest possible leaves to hide their prickly bodies. Rather than just a haphazard occurrence, such as debris falling from the water column and remaining stuck on the urchin’s spines, this camouflaging technique is intentional behavior. Scientists have discovered that sea urchins use their tube feet to transfer debris from the sea floor to the tops of their bodies. As such, this behavior demonstrates incredible instinct and desire for self-preservation for a brainless animal. It also demonstrates a wonderful picture of God as our Help.
For those who believe the truth of Scripture, we know of the immensity and power of God. As the Scriptures declare, nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26). However, this fact does not eliminate the need for personal and spiritual initiative. The risk associated with the knowledge of God’s greatness and power is that it can give us a tendency to hang back when we should be actively pursuing God’s plan for our lives. We expect God to do everything for us rather than fulfill His role as our Help. Help is defined as to “make it easier for someone to do something by offering one’s services or resources”. Note that to help is to make things easier, not to do everything for the person. This concept is demonstrated in the passages describing the Israelites’ departure from Egypt:
“Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” Exodus 12:35-36 (NKJV)
God blessed the Israelites by giving them the command to ask the Egyptians for their gold and silver (Exodus 11:2-3), essentially backpay for years worked as slaves, and by granting them favor with their masters. Yet His plan still required the Israelites to demonstrate their faith and trust in God by asking the Egyptians for their resources. God set the stage and helped them to fulfill His plan, but the Israelites still were required to take an active role in having God’s plan realized in their lives.
Just like the Israelites, God’s role as our Help combines our responsibility to move forward in faith with God’s supernatural ability to provide us with grace for the journey. Considering the example of the sea urchin, God provides the sea urchin with the resources needed to help it to hide from predators such as instinct, tube feet and fallen debris. But the sea urchin still needs to utilize the tools that it has been given in order to complete the task. Similarly, God has given us gifts, skills, resources and direction to accomplish His will, but we must also be diligent to use them in being obedient to His purpose for our lives.