God’s Wisdom and the Ostrich

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your
creatures.

– Psalm 104:24

This is a wonderful statement in the midst of David’s majestic psalm about the glories of creation and the glory of the one who made them all. Creation is rich in its diversity, all reflecting the wisdom of God. David is moved to exult, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.” (Psalm 104:31)

All of us have marveled at God’s artful design. Last year I looked over the austere beauty of the Badlands in South Dakota. It was beyond anything I’d seen for being awesome and desolate at the same time. It was easy to have a rejoicing David moment in the Badlands.

But when David spoke of the wisdom of the Lord in creation, he wasn’t thinking only of majestic mountains and sunsets. God’s wisdom breaks our human categories for what it means to be wise.

For example, in answering Job’s complaints, God makes it abundantly clear that his ways are not usually Job’s ways. God says in Job 38:2, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” You know, a little humility is in order when speaking of what God is up to in his world. Then in Job 38-41, God pulls back the creational curtain to let Job know what really
is going on.

One of God’s descriptions in the passage (39:13-18) is about the the ostrich, one of his wise creative works: “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.”

If we were in charge of creating the ostrich, we would go back to the drawing board, wouldn’t we? The ostrich needs major revisions before we let it loose in the world! But clearly, God wanted an animal that would bring him joy with its speed. Watch out, horse and rider.

Sometimes I think teachers and administrators need to consider the ostrich in their planning. In our evidence-driven, outcome-based, high stakes testing world of education, it would be good to remember that when God made us in his image, he didn’t use a cookie cutter! Is there a place for students to flourish who are highly capable in some ways, but may not do well in the more customary learnings that are given prominence in school?

With the goal of guiding students to seek meaning as God intends them to do, teachers should help students to flourish in all the ways that they exhibit God’s image. Teachers should create lesson plans and units that attend not only to the rational nature of learners, but also the social, physical, aesthetic, moral and creative aspects of their nature. When students believe that the study of a subject is personally meaningful to them, they are ready to learn!

God, in his wisdom, made us fearfully, wonderfully and differently abled. Could it be that the many different types of kids in school, some of whom are a challenge to plan for, is exactly what brings God joy?

Praise him, sun and moon and the stars! Praise him, sky and clouds and the rain! Let them praise his name, works of God! All creatures praise the Lord!

Praise him, wind and storm, mountains steep! Praise him, fruitful trees, cedars tall! Beasts and cattle herds, birds that fly! All creatures praise the Lord!

Kings of earth must praise, rulers all! All young men and girls, praise the Lord! Old men, children small, praise the Lord! All people praise the Lord!

Hymn by Richard T. Bewes
From Psalm 148