What do you think of when I mention baby birds? Do you think of a tightly packed bird’s nest tucked safely out of sight, the scent of a nearby rose bush, blue skies, and warm weather? While I enjoy baby birds, quite frankly I’m not a big a fan of the warm weather. On the first day of summer, I start counting down the days until winter. As I’m writing this, it’s July 6, winter will return to the United States in just 167 days! (Do you want to build a snowman?) Warm summer days are perfect for baby birds, right?
Not for emperor penguins. As I’m writing, it’s -69°F in Antarctica. (At least that’s what the app on my phone says.) It’s also dark 24 hours a day. That doesn’t really seem like a good time for chicks to hatch, but God has some interesting timing. Emperor penguins lay their eggs in May or June, right as winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere. Then, it’s time for the fathers to take over and incubate those eggs while the mothers go on a fishing expedition for several months. During the coldest and darkest time of the year, with no food, the father penguins have to balance an egg on their feet, and keep it warm until it hatches by covering it with his feathers. Once that tiny chick does emerge, the fathers will hold those tiny penguins on their feet until the mothers return and trade places. These fragile lives have no shelter from the ice and bitter cold wind other than the feathers of their parents. God’s timing for new life both fascinates and baffles me.
This would probably be a good time to mention my “slight” obsession with penguins. I’ve been collecting them since I was 12. Even as I type I can see at least forty penguin items in this room. One can never have too many penguins! I’m guessing my oddball penguin loving brain has me seeing a different mental picture than most when it comes to one of my favorite passages of scripture.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…” Psalm 91:4 NIV
When you read that verse, what do you think of? Do you think of a baby bird tucked inside a perfectly crafted nest under the warmth of her mother’s wings? When I read that verse, I think of a tiny penguin balancing on her father’s feet covered with a thick blanket of feathers protecting her from the bitter cold wind. Newborn penguins are defenseless against the cold. Their tiny bodies down feathers don’t have the provide the same insulation adult feathers provide. Just a few seconds without the covering of those warm soft feathers, and they wouldn’t survive. They need refuge from the cold harsh world they’re born into.
Refuge. Do you ever feel like that’s what you need? I know I do. Sometimes it feels as if darkness if never ending, and no matter what the season is, it feels cold. It’s in those moments I have to remind myself of God’s promise to cover me with His feathers. He is my refuge. He makes sure I am safe from the slippery ice. The howling winds may be close, but I’m safe. My problem is remembering to actually stay under the protective covering of His feathers. (Is anyone else prone to try things on their own?) Just a few seconds and I’m reminded of why I need Him to protect me.
What fascinates me is God’s timing. Why would He create emperor penguin chicks to hatch in during the coldest time of the year at the coldest place on earth in total darkness? It turns out He has a very good reason. It takes several months for those babies to be able to fend for themselves. They need to be able to get food. That means they need their adult feathers so they can swim in the frigid Antarctic waters. Those chicks will be ready to fend for themselves just as summer is coming to Antarctica. When summer approaches, some of the ice melts, which means there’s a much larger food supply. Think about it for a minute. If emperor penguins laid their eggs in the spring or summer like most birds, those chicks would hatch as winter was approaching. The colony’s population would grow by one-third. As those chicks grow they’d need more food, but when winter is approaching, the food supply dwindles. Because those chicks hatch during the harshest time of the year, as they grow, so does the availability of food. In reality, it’s not crazy, it’s perfect timing.
I’m going to guess, like myself, you have you have questioned God’s timing at least once. I’ve often wondered why did something happen during what seemed like the worst possible time. Even right now I’m wondering why God is bringing some new things into my life during what seems like the worst possible timing.
How do you react when you see something new starting during what may seem like the worst time? My first response is to panic. Then I try to remember this verse:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV
God always has a plan when He brings new life in the middle of the harshest conditions. Jesus is right there in every moment. We will thrive, even in the harshest conditions, if we stay huddled under God’s safe covering.
What is your favorite animal? Please leave a comment so we can connect. You’re important to me! Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like me to talk about in a future blog post.