Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Penguin Prayer

By Dr. Jeff Arthurs, PhD
Professor of Preaching & Communication and Dean of the Chapel

Have you seen the film called March of the Penguins? It is a marvelous documentary about the breeding cycle of the penguins of Antarctica. Every year they march 60 or 100 miles into the interior of that continental ice box to mate. You may have noticed that penguins are not built for marching; they waddle and squirm for all those miles. After mating, the male returns to the sea to feed, while the female produces an egg. Then the male returns to care for the egg while the female makes a dash for the coast. Daddy penguin has to hold the egg on his feet, an inch above the deadly frozen ground, and shield it with a flap of belly skin covered with warm feathers. The poor father eats nothing for months, moves no more than a few inches a day because he’s got an egg on his feet, and stands exposed to the worst weather on our planet. Then the egg hatches and the father has to care for the mindless, rambunctious, fragile chick. The weather can kill baby penguin in hours. Finally, momma comes back with a crop full of fish, and the happy family march-waddles to the sea.

So . . . if penguin fathers can be this patient and selfless, can’t I? Here’s a sonnet I wrote, a prayer, asking God to give me the patience of a penguin:

Prayer for Patience in Fathering

Lord of all, if penguins can, can’t I?—
The plodding march, the hunger, pain, and trials.
They shuffle, stand, and shield their juveniles
With only instinct, hope, and feathers dry.
If they can nurture chicks in wind and trackless
Ice with predators, besides the wild
And mindless straying of the hatchlings beguiled
By shape and sound, can’t I? Do I have less
Instinct? Less hope? And surely human brain
Can compensate for flightless feathers. Yet,
I lack the penguin’s patience, just to let
Him molt, mature, and muddle in his vein.
Help me to wait, the penguin emulate;
He knows his role, his place, Your time, time’s state.

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