This January I traveled to Crystal River, Florida and snorkeled with manatees in their wild habitat within the natural springs located there. I snorkeled one day in Crystal River and a second day in Homosassa, each location having its own population of manatees hiding from the cold waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Manatees come inland into the warm springs because they cannot live for long periods of time in cold water or tolerate temperatures lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit (Save the Manatee Club, 2021).
When a manatee approaches a human snorkeling in the water with curiosity and no fear, there is something magical about their snotty kiss on your scuba goggles that fogs up your vision. In these waters, manatee respect and etiquette dictate that you do not reach out to the animal but rather let it come to you. Once an animal is literally a few inches from you, you cannot help but touch it, and like a dog, some manatees want to play in the water and receive a good back scratching.
While it might sound very simplistic, a manatee’s demeanor in the water reminds me of the nature of God. Boat motors mangle these creatures with their sharp propellers, more often than not due to the negligence of the person steering the boat. Boaters often ignore the protected safe zones and the legal warnings that request neutral idle speeds in shallow waters, including the Floridian springs. Regardless of the harm done, sometimes with the innocence of a child, a manatee will still bless a human with its presence without any malicious intent. Grace is given, and nothing (action or gift) is requested in return.
God’s gift to humanity in salvation works the very same way. God expects nothing in return but surrender and faith in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. His grace flows through the Holy Spirit into our souls and bodies to act as a testimony to the world for His good will and His good purposes. All God asks is that our hearts be given to Him in faith with our steps moving forward….nothing more….and nothing less.
As the father of Annabelle, I can learn much from the manatees and the beauty of God’s wild creation. In fact, we should treat all the animals and sea creatures of His creation with the same reverence we do humans. When individuals hurt or kill an animal with malice, illogical reasoning, it emotionally unnerves me (i.e. illegal poaching, neglecting pets, hunting out of season, etc.)! Who, in their right mind, would do such activities without respect for the animals?!?! In my own international travels, I have heard that shark oil has magical properties, the tusks of an elephant bring good fortunes, and ingredients from a tortoise make multi-thousand-dollar perfumes. Of course, these stories all seem like dysfunctional, irrational behaviors. Again, how cowardly can a person be to harm a defenseless animal?!?! If a person truly respected God’s creation, there would be a veneration for all living things, not simply to indulge in mistaken, misguided intentions, selfishness, and beliefs.
For anyone who has felt the kiss and warmth of a manatee’s gentle nature, there would be no malice in the heart of such an encounter. And for a God who works for the good of all who profess the name of Jesus, no malice will come our way. Yes, I will remember my wonderful days in those warm springs! I will remember the lessons of grace shown to me by the manatees, and as Annabelle’s father, I will pass those lessons down onto her as well.
“Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”
Works Cited List
Save The Manatee Club (2021). Migration. https://www.savethemanatee.org/manatees/migration/#:~:text=Manatees%20need%20warm%20water%20to,for%20long%20periods%20of%20time.
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