This photo of the Patagonian landscape, taken by Dr. Stanley, looks cold and bare. The color of the water almost blends in with the icy white of the snow. Though I squint at the black spots, hoping perhaps they are signs of life, they are simply frozen earth peeking out. This image can perhaps bring serenity to some, but to me it looks empty and bleak. I could not tolerate a dive into the freezing water, could not enjoy the blinding sunshine coming at me from all sides. And I’m inclined to believe no one could.
But then, upon closer research, I find out I’m wrong. Patagonia is one of the most distinctive wildlife regions in all of South America, teeming with all kinds of species. But how many times am I fooled by what I am able to see? Underneath the water’s surface there are whales, dolphins, sea lions, and funny-looking elephant seals. There is a large colony of king penguins that live in Patagonia year-round. And just because I can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.
When I was investigating the wildlife in Patagonia, I learned that most animals move around according to the seasons. If you are a photographer, you have to know where and when to look. There are emerald-and-red parakeets in southern woods. The Patagonian puma is likely to become endangered, but a few can be found in the southwestern region of Chile. Sea lions come around the coast of Argentina in December.
In remembering—or allowing a friend to remind me—God works in unknown, unseen ways, I am able to know that how something looks isn’t the whole story.
I’m also learning that such attention to timing is necessary in the Christian life. Sometimes, when I look out at the landscape of my existence, it looks barren and almost lifeless. But in remembering—or allowing a friend to remind me—God works in unknown, unseen ways, I am able to know that how something looks isn’t the whole story. And even if it were the whole story today, things might drastically change tomorrow. I am not often a seeker of change, but when I consider it as something God allows or even wants, I find myself more receptive.
In the end, I have to remember: Below the water, there is life. Above the mountains, there is hope. And sometimes a group of migrating sea lions is just around the corner. Yes, it is hard to hold on to hope, especially when we’re expecting God to fit into some script we’ve created or inherited. But if we allow ourselves to approach Him with hands and hearts open to mystery, I believe we can be pleasantly surprised.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley