On vacation last week, my family and I visited a “safari park” – basically a drive-through petting zoo where you can roll down your window and feed the animals. I confess, I was not looking forward to this part of our vacation adventures. In general, animals make me a little nervous. They are usually bigger than me, and I find them to be unpredictable and capable of causing harm, intentionally or not. So, the idea of one of those, sometimes very large, animals poking its head in my safe space terrified me. But I bit my tongue and took one for the team as we drove into the park.
It turned out most of the family had a good time on the safari, especially as we got further into the park. But the anxiety in my gut never relaxed. For a solid 30-45 minutes, I was on edge, trying to put on my “everything’s fine” face for the kids. It was not until we made our way to the walking zoo section of the park and were feeding a giraffe that the tension in my body slowly eased. The giraffe’s head was huge, but his eating was calm and collected. And after all the lettuce was gone, he just hung out – not looking for more food. My daughter, who is obsessed with giraffes, held a full nonverbal conversation with the giraffe, and even I found my muscles slowly relaxing as I gazed into his calm, soothing eyes.
Later, as we were reading about giraffes, I learned giraffes make a soothing humming-type noise inaudible to the human ear but meant to help them stay connected to their young and fellow giraffes. Even though I did not hear the noise, I am convinced the giraffe must have been humming for us that day – sensing our anxiety, and longing to offer us a calming peace.
As we journey through this time of pandemic life, I am increasingly aware of the low (and sometimes high) level of anxiety within which we are all operating. Over time, that anxiety wears on you – whether you find yourself snapping at someone, bursting into tears unexpectedly, or distancing from emotional connections. In this time of ongoing anxiety, I have been thinking we all need a soothing sound that can help us let go of the tensions in our shoulders, relax the muscles in our jaw, and release the tightness in our chest. For some of us that happens through yoga, through a phone call to a friend, or through watching a funny movie. Lately, I have been wondering if God is not providing that soundless, soothing hum we have not acknowledged. Perhaps God is placing people, animals, or encounters (even virtual ones) in our path that can help us let go of some of our anxiety, take a deep breath of the Spirit’s calming peace, and allow us to refocus on our faith – a faith which can feel adrift in the sea of closed church buildings, social distancing, and self-quarantines. My prayer for you is you hear God’s humming this week as we turn the page on another pandemic week.