One day while I was still living in Louisiana, I went out for my evening walk with the expectation of seeing nothing new — except perhaps larger cracks in the levee from the oppressive heat and drought. However, walking along the lake, I stopped at one spot to approach the water, and to my surprise there was indeed something new — something I had never seen before in the brackish water of Lake Pontchartrain: a jellyfish. (Of course, it is only recently that the water has been clear enough to see a jellyfish.)
To be exact, this was a sea nettle. (I looked it up.) Like other jellyfish, I learned, it has no heart, no blood, and no brain.
My only impression so far of jellyfish had been that they are a nuisance when one is swimming in the ocean — more than a nuisance if you are stung by one. In fact, as I stared at this one, my first reaction was a feeling of fascinated disgust. The sea nettle had shapeless stuff hanging from its bell which reminded me of primal goo. It was especially unappealing when it turned upside-down. I wasn’t even sure that it was alive.
Then a second jellyfish appeared, and I realized that they were both in fact alive. I wondered if this one could be the mate of the other — though it’s hard to imagine anything without either a heart or a brain wanting to swim along companionably with its mate.
Gradually, as I watched, a marvelous thing happened: I saw how beautiful they were. The first was a translucent white; the second had red stripes. They both looked like uprooted mushrooms. Even more remarkable, considering my first reaction to them, was the concern I felt as the water became rough and the striped one seemed in danger of being smashed.
Too often, I don’t gaze long enough at things or people to see their beauty. In gazing, we may at times be granted the gift of seeing the world and its inhabitants a bit the way God sees them. When that happens, we perceive the beauty that was there all along, but which we had not, up until that moment, had the eyes to see.
O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)