Ocean Reef

Wondrous Depths

I am addicted to wonder. So then it is not surprising that I would be absolutely captivated by the ocean’s depths.

There are two things that have always convinced me that God is just as weird as I am: the book of Revelation, and the deep ocean. These two have shown me that no matter how strange I feel or think I am, God is right there with me, chuckling, and saying, “What if you added just a few more eyes? Or a couple more teeth? No, make them sharper!”

Hooded NudibranchAt the same time, there is an undeniable poetry in the life that calls the ocean home. Mankind might be God’s novel, but the creatures of the deep are God’s sonnet. Their every fluid motion sings of His glory. Their glimmering bioluminescence illuminates His twinkling light in the inky black. Their strange elegance and otherworldly beauty hints of another, more wonderful world yet to come: one only glimpsed by a privileged few who returned long enough to tell it. From the simplest to the most complex, from the nudibranch to the stingray to the octopus, God’s fingerprints are all over these wonderful entities, as are the echoes of His words: “It is good.”

Genesis isn’t the only place that connects God with the sea. When strung together, these independent verses create a poem of sorts. How fitting when discussing the ocean.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (1)

“The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (2)

“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all;  the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.” (3)

“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” (4)

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps!” (5)

Then there is also the incredible connection between Jesus, the sea and water. Jesus loved the sea. In fact, He spent much of His recorded ministry by it or on it. It was in water that He was revealed as the Christ. It was with water that He performed His first chronicled miracle. It was by the sea that He taught, healed and cast out demons (including the Legion.) It was on the sea that He was lulled to sleep by storms and that He terrified His followers while strolling across the waves.

God is often described as having an ocean of forgetfulness, where He casts the sins we repent of. It is also often claimed that His love and grace are like limitless oceans. How marvelous: within God’s depths are living treasures we could never hope to imagine in a lifetime. The kingdom of Heaven is like a net cast into the sea that gathered fish of every kind. (6) What marvels will it bring to light?

It is often argued that the sea is a hotbed – a literal gargantuan Petri dish – in which to observe the mechanisms of evolution at work. I am not here to argue science and belief systems, but I will say that to focus only on the mechanisms in these systems is to entirely miss much of the beauty and poetry present in these incredible creatures. I recently read a great article in a little online magazine called “The Behemoth” (I recommend you subscribe: it’s only $1.99 a month) (7) about ecosystems, and how they are so brilliantly interconnected and intertwined together. Take the coral reef: sponges and anemones provide shelter for various fish and crustaceans. Byrozoans help cement the reef to the ocean floor. All of the animals who inhabit the reef form an elaborate, gorgeous and interknit panoply that functions as a whole to maintain the reef and help it to flourish. One could say it looked designed that way: as an expression of a near-limitlessly colorful system with thousands of parts functioning to make a whole.

OctopusBut this wonder doesn’t just exist on the macro level: it exists in most every strange, foreign creature under the sea. Take, for an example, the octopus. I have heard it said that, if one species on earth could some day potentially become intelligent enough to create a society of sorts besides man, it will likely be the octopus. But it is so radically different from us in every way. Its mind isn’t localized in what we would consider its head. Or even its brain. Instead, its neurons are found throughout its body, in each of its arms. In a sense, much of its body is a brain. When one of its arms are detached, that arm can still function on its own for some time, driven by the neurons still alive and firing inside it. Many of them also possess a camouflage technique where their skin can take on the look of their surroundings. They can fit into any space that is big enough for their beak to fit through, they use tools, they play games, they open doors, and they remember. They have keen eye sight, though their eyes are very little like ours, and they can taste anything they touch with the suction cups on their eight arms. They can hear well, though people aren’t quite sure how. If you have one as a pet, it will escape its enclosure to raid your refrigerator in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping, and you’ll wonder where the leftover fish went. And they have three hearts. (8) Impressed yet?

The world can sometimes seem like such a dry, dusty, desert place, where you can become desperate for a drink of water, a stir of imagination, a closeness to God. When those days come maybe it’s time to harken to the ocean, to step into its depths, to revel in God’s wonders, and to splash about in the Creator’s playground.

What most takes your breath away about the ocean? What seizes your heart with awe?

 

References

  1. Job 38:16
  2. Psalm 95:5
  3. Psalm 104:24-26
  4. Psalm 89:9
  5. Psalm 148:7
  6. Matthew 13:47
  7. Rick Destree, “A Mysterious (and Beautiful) Tapestry.” (Behemoth Magazine, 10/16/2014. http://www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2014/issue-7/mysterious-and-beautiful-tapestry.html)
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus

Ocean reef and octopus (c) 2014 Dollar Photo Club.

Hooded nudibranch (c) 2014 Byron Leavitt.