I am lucky to have a good friend who reads the Sunday New York Times cover to cover–she always alerts me to the good stories I otherwise would have missed. This week, it was this story:
the story of a woman and her beloved pet tortoise. Yes, you read that correctly: beloved pet tortoise.
Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for all animals, and stories of the special relationships people form with animals warm my heart every time. What is, of course, unique about this story is that the animal in question is a reptile, and there are some who would argue that reptiles are simply not capable of warm relationships of any sort–let alone loving relationships with humans. Yet, this woman clearly had a strong bond to Minnie [a mistakenly-named male tortoise], and their relationship lasted twenty years [not all that surprising, given the lifespan of a tortoise is anywhere from 50 to 150 years].
Here’s the best part of the article [besides Minnie being the standard by which all potential boyfriends were judged]: the author contrasts her experience with those who love dogs and cats, noting that “it’s easy to love the beautiful, the normal. But what about the gifts of loving the strange, the uncommon, the odd?” The gifts of loving the strange, the uncommon, the odd. I think that in some ways, Christianity is, at its heart, a religion that stakes its life on that kind of love, beginning with a God who loved the strange, uncommon, odd world–and its strange, uncommon, odd people [and creatures] so much, that God willingly entered into their reality, living and dying with them so that they might never be apart from God. And, speaking of the incarnation, who was fonder of oddballs than Jesus? And so then, too, are Christians called to love the strange, the uncommon, the odd, bringing God’s love to the often overlooked and passed-by, the quiet hard-shelled tortoises of the world. It’s a gift we are given in our baptism, I think, when our lives are joined to Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit he dwells in us, making possible a new life–a new way of seeing, and a new way of loving. I wonder what Henry would think of a tortoise?