I read a News story recently that filled me with delight - so much so that I sent it to everyone I know. It related the story of a baby hippopotamus in Kenya, who was orphaned after the tsunami last December.
The baby hippo has latched on to a 100-year-old tortoise as its surrogate mother. The tortoise doesn't seem to mind, and this unlikely duo makes for a cute pair.
This story not only tugged at my heartstrings, but got me thinking about God and the immensity of His care for each of us.
A statement by Jesus gave me some insight into how much God cares for us. It's this: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matt. 10:30). I find it wonderfully comforting to be reassured that each detail, represented in something as small as a single hair is accounted for. God is that big, that loving, and that caring.
In the middle of my college experience, I transferred to a different school - and had a miserable year. The level of academic rigor was beyond my comfort zone; I had no friends; I was far away from home; I'd taken up rowing on a crew team, which was more physically challenging than anything I'd ever done; and my parents called one day to tell me they were divorcing.
I didn't know which way to turn; I felt so lost and alone. And I couldn't imagine praying to God, who, I thought, had forgotten about me.
This period of self-pity, fear, and sadness went on for a number of weeks, until I couldn't stand it anymore.
I called an experienced Christian Scientist for some helpful ideas. She told me to find one thing to be grateful for every day - even if it was simply that the grass was green. I remember feeling skeptical and defensive, as I was certain there wasn't anything good in my life.
The next day, walking back to my dorm after my morning class, I remembered the instruction to be grateful. Looking around, I could see nothing to stimulate such a feeling, so I decided to go with, "Well, I'm happy the grass is green."
The next night, after practice, the sun was setting and the clouds were alight with color. That was a sight it was easy to be grateful for. And so it continued - every day, something little would strike me as a good thing, and so my gratitude began to build and snowball.
This process of daily gratitude and acknowledgement of good showed me that God was indeed caring for me each day, whether I had recognized it or not.
Eventually I found myself being grateful for bigger things, such as the opportunity to live in another state, try a new sport, and be challenged academically. The entire experience opened up into one of blessings, joy, and lessons learned - and everything I'd been upset about was resolved.
At the end of the year, I remember feeling so content I couldn't think what my fuss had been about. The power of gratitude is a lesson I've never forgotten. And it never fails to remind me that God is right with me and helping me, even if I can't see it clearly that particular day.
Which brings me back to the hippo. Hippos are social creatures that often stay with their mother for several years, so for this little one to be orphaned could have been catastrophic.
But instead, he latched on to this tortoise - and they've formed an unlikely bond. Upon hearing of this hippo, a friend remarked, "It doesn't say God setteth only solitary people in families." My friend was referring to the verse in Psalms that reads, "God setteth the solitary in families" (Ps. 68:6).
God sets us - and provides for us and cares for us - no matter where we are, who we are, or what situation we're in. He loves us that much, and that fills me with gratitude.
It is a good thing
to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises
unto thy name....
O Lord, how great
are thy works!
Psalms 92:1, 5