Extra Virgin :: What a whale can teach you about intimacy with God
As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to expand the conversation on sexuality here at Extra Virgin. Sex within marriage has the potential to produce beautiful intimacy between you and your husband, but this is only one of the ways that we can experience intimacy. It’s possible to experience deeply fulfilling intimacy with a friend or other believers in the Church. And all of this points to the place where intimacy can be the most satisfying, the most true, the most real—to intimacy with God himself.
Valentine and I have both been very interested in whales lately. It all started when Logan bought me a beautiful whale print and Valentine began asking questions about the whales depicted on it. I started reading up on whales so I could answer her questions and discovered the most amazing things—did you know that Bowhead Whales have been known to live for over 200 years? They’ve found whales with ivory spear heads stuck in their skin, spear heads that whalers threw into their bodies back in the 1800s! We spend a lot of our mornings on YouTube, watching documentaries or videos about the secret and almost eerie life of whales. But then one day we happened upon a video that transfixed me.
In it, a group of scientists who document the migration patterns of whales down in Mexico happened upon a humpback whale entangled in a net. She was so hopelessly caught, and long since exhausted, that she could only float as though dead. Every few moments she would utter a cry of desperate misery. The scientists, risking their lives, entered the water near her and began to cut away at the net with whatever supplies they could find in their small boat. Over the course of an hour or two, they completely freed the whale, who quickly dove for the ocean depths.
But then, suddenly, the water erupted nearby as she breached exuberantly. Her body rose so high into the air it was as though she wanted to fly. Crashing back into the water, she only dove long enough to erupt from the waves once again. For the next hour, she danced and plunged through the water in a stunning display. The scientists recorded over 40 breaches, tail lobs and fin slaps. They said, “It was…a show of pure joy, if not thanks.”
As I watched that whale jump and twist and spin, I began to weep. It struck me that here was a fitting response to salvation, not my sedate and cerebral contemplation of the salvation plan of God. A more natural, pure and sincere response would be more like this—more like dance, song, more like laughter.
Alexander Schmemann writes, “Eucharist [thanksgiving] is the state of the perfect man. Eucharist is the life of paradise. Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption, and gift of heaven.”
While it’s Jesus’ righteousness alone that saves us, thanksgiving and joy is the experience of being saved. It produces a wholeness, a healing, a completing of the relationship that God offers us when he redeems us. It’s a ticket into the presence of God. And that is where true intimacy begins.
(Photo via Young and Free. Schmemann quote via One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp)