One of the items on our vacation agenda last month was a trip to the Memphis Zoo. Of all the animals on display, my favorite was the polar bear. I am in love with polar bears! Maybe it's because they are so beautiful in their luxurious white fur coats. Other kinds of bears... brown bears, black bears, and grizzly's have always felt far more intimidating, though certainly the raw power of this huge white beast is formidable. There is no doubt he could do serious damage if I encountered him in his domain; in fact, I would most likely meet my fate as a tasty dinner. Yet still, I cannot help but watch him in total awe.
While observing the bear's movements from the other side of the glass observation wall, I remembered an expression from my childhood... "clumsy as a bear". It's true that bears on land seem rather ungainly, lumbering along with their big behinds, knocking over barrels and wrecking havoc at campsites while searching for something (or someone) good to eat. Yet, as I watched this beautiful beast slip into his swimming pool time and again in pursuit of food being dropped to him from out of sight above, I was struck by his agility as he moved gracefully through the water, never failing to make the catch even though the pieces of fish were small. One time he actually caught the chunk of fish with his rear foot and nimbly lifted it to retrieve the fish with his mouth. It was almost like watching a water ballet as he dived and turned, and stood again to look up in anticipation of more food. At one point he pushed off from the glass wall with his gigantic back foot, giving us a wonderful view of it's underside, much to the delight of children gathered along the glass to watch. Clearly he was at home in his natural element and enjoying his time in the water.
I couldn't help but reflect on how this translates to our perception of people. Sometimes they seem so ungainly as they move clumsily through life, and often times we fail to perceive their beauty. Maybe part of this awkwardness is because our spirits must contend with the bodies we wear and find a way to negotiate life in places and situations that feel anything but comfortable. It's unfortunate that we can't see each other as we are in the spirit realm, free and being what we were designed to be, in a place that will surely feel like home, just as water does for the polar bear.
In the mean time, the next time I encounter someone who appears a bit ungainly, maybe I'll stop and take a second look, and see what grace and beauty might be found beneath the rough disguise.