The Interloper

On lime stones we’d laid
The chipmunk sat erect
His beady brown eye watched me
Wondering what to expect

While he devoured a nut
His teeth worked at warp speed
He sat oh so still
Satisfying his need.

The creek kept on flowing
Behind the barrier wall
The chipmunk did not notice
Its rise or its fall.

The ducks kept on laughing
Beating their wings in the stream
The sun kept on shining
But the day ran out of steam.

There is stillness in the motion
And silence in the sound
Of nature dining, dancing
And something so profound.

For life goes on without me
As if I were not there
And only when I approach
Does creation begin to care.

I’m not the center of their universe
The maker of their world,
They see me as intruder
As their days unfurl.

I may be the gardener,
Or one who mows the lawn
But I’m not a part of nature
Without me it still goes on.

The Bible says of us
We’re the apple of His eye
But my magnolia does not know me
As it reaches for the sky.

Could it be that all creation
Lives for God above
Who gave it life and time
And abundance of His love?

Creation was not groaning
On this fine Fall day
It was merrily playing
With Winter not far away.

The chipmunk knows its coming
He forages without pause
His fur grows thicker, longer
Does he know the cause?

Sometimes I do wonder
Who best reads God’s signs
Is it my larger brain
Or that acorn-sized mind?

And who best senses his presence
Or obeys his laws
The more you think on it,
The more it gives you pause.

Enough of contemplation
The chipmunk runs away
And I am left with beauty
At closing of the day.

Oct. 21, 2011

  • Willliamameitzen

    thank you–we know so little about it all, but our Jesus got us started, and where we’ll end up we’ll never know.

  • Anonymous

    You are absolutely right. Sometimes I have a little chat with my cat. She talks right back to me responding to every question. If only I knew what she was saying. But someday, I figure I will.

  • Ben DeVries

    Ben, this is a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing it. It remains very rare to have a respected theologian pay any form of serious attention to animals, our relation to them, or their relationship to their Creator. I’m not sure what your policy is on cross-posting, but would it be at all possible for me to share this poem (with attribution and link) on a blog I administrate for Not One Sparrow, a Christian voice for animals?

    Thank you for allowing me to ask, regardless, and for your writing and thinking which has stretched me in several ways in recent months – best wishes, Ben D.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Ben, we are all God’s creatures, but humans remain the only ones who continually foul their own nest.

  • Ben DeVries

    I think you’re right, Ben, though we seem to be well on our way to fouling a majority of other creatures’ nests as well, if not wiping them out entirely. Sadly, we also are capable of forcing millions of the dignified creatures we raise for food to live in such conditions that they cannot help but foul their own ‘nest,’ and sit on top of their own filth and that of their cage mates.

    This quote from Matthew Scully, Catholic author of ‘Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy,’ is quite poignant along similar lines, and eerily echoes Ezekiel 34:1-6 in some respect:

    “The smallest scraps of human charity – a bit of maternal care, room to roam outdoors, straw to lie on-have long since been taken away as costly luxuries, and so the pigs know the feel only of concrete and metal. They lie covered in their own urine and excrement, with broken legs from trying to escape or just to turn, covered with festering sores, tumors, ulcers, lesions, or what my guide shrugged off as the routine ‘pus pockets.’

    “C.S. Lewis’s description of animal pain – “begun by Satan’s malice and perpetrated by man’s desertion of his post” – has literal truth in our factory farms because they basically run themselves through the wonders of automation, with the owners off in spacious corporate offices reviewing their spreadsheets.” (from Scully’s description of a North Carolina industrial pig farm in “A Religious Case for Compassion for Animals”)

    On a different note, I was exposed to your work while taking a great class on Sanctification a few years back with Tom McCall at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago suburbs. I was working on a final paper on Romans 7, and set to defend the traditional Reformed take on the passage, when he recommended I read your exposition of the passage in ‘The Problem with Evangelical Theology,’ which of course referred me to your commentary as well. Earlier this year I was able to finally read the rest of the former, and continue to benefit from doing so. In between, I was able to get my MA in Christian Studies at TEDS and do my capstone project on a biblical-theological foundation for animal welfare.

    I recommended the few pages near the end of the book in which you address the call to creation stewardship to my friend Dean Ohlman who is nature writer at RBC Ministries (and blogs quite eloquently at ‘The Wonder of Creation’), and recently this poem as well. Speaking of which, if you would be comfortable with me sharing ‘The Interloper’ on Not One Sparrow’s blog, please do let me know.

    I apologize for the rather lengthy comment, but thank you for reading if you got to this point.
    Ben D.

  • Anonymous

    Ben you are welcome to use this poem. Ben W.

  • Ben DeVries

    Thank you kindly, Ben. Here’s a link to the post where I just shared it:
    gratefully, Ben D.