I was leaning intently over the edge of the boat, first scouring the reeds, then noticing that underwater there were often tiny little roaches among the plants, and seeing how far you could see when you peer; then I was looking up and beyond at birds of prey wheeling high above the trees. I was on a boat trip at the Arundel Wetlands and Wildfowl, and suddenly, because I was told we may see a watervole, it was the one thing I wanted to see, and I couldn’t spot it. At one point we heard a distinct ‘plop’ into the water, but it was too far away to inspect more closely.
Our guide said that next time he would definitely get the ‘toy’ watervole out to keep us happy.
I am not a twitcher, or a naturalist, a gardener or a photographer or painter of landscapes, so adjusting my vision to use it to notice something small or quick is difficult. I think I would find it especially hard trying to spot birds, because they often move so fast. My wife and I, a little later on at the superb Wetlands Trust, quietly invaded a hide where a couple were arguing over whether they were peering at a coal tit or a marsh tit, the critical factor being the quantity of black on the bird’s head. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
But God has made the watervole, and God cares enormously about it; those who steward the earth’s resources are showing respect for God’s creation and praising Him by admiring it. We need to stop and stare a lot in this life. It is possibly the product of getting a little older, but I tell myself off now when I catch myself rushing. I am called to live in the moment, to step back and see what Jesus sees, to feel his rush of love and to feel his pleasure in watching us. God is a nature-watcher.
What does God look for when he goes ‘nature-watching’? I fancy that sometimes he looks down at a gathering of his people, and gets excited, and calls some angels to come over and have a look too: Hey, come over here, Michael, look – Here are some of my people, and they are loving for each other. See, they are doing good things. They are helping the needy, they are caring for the poor, they are introducing others to my Son, Jesus.
As an intermittent and occasional nature-watcher, I suspect that I am prone to missing the best things. I went out on a boat once in the Canaries to hunt for whales, and came back extremely seasick and I don’t think I would have even been interested in a whale if one had appeared. On safari in East Kenya I can recall driving around and apparently our driver saw a black rhino off far away in the brush: I didn’t see it. He got very excited. I was pleased for him.
What would really frustrate me would be to miss what excites God when he looks down: His people repenting, obeying, surrendering, asking in faith and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and going out in power to lift up and rescue the old, the deceived, the broken, the hardhearted, the religious and the covetous. There is nothing like watching someone at the end of their resources shed their old skin and humbly accept the ministrations of the only Saviour, Jesus.