When God could no longer look at the world and love it, Noah’s family did. My parents’ childhood Bibles, which I keep on my desk, say it repented the LORD (v. 6, KJV). But in our time of world-ending destruction, the questions I would normally ask about God’s depend- ability mean less than what I’d ask Noah’s family, who built an ark and filled it. The ark itself is a marvel of engineering, but I need to know what it took to verify that two of every creature (and seven of every clean creature, if the second verse of the seventh chapter is given its due) had been brought on board.
If the family saw the Anhinga anhinga drying on a log beside the Ocmulgee River, they would need to know that Louis Vieillot’s 1816 subclassification made it a different bird than the Anhinga anhinga that Linnaeus first classified according to the name the Tupi people gave it. Surely, in the time it took to notice these differences, they would have also come to love its other names in languages they would never know—Jesus Bird for the shape it makes, or Snake Bird for the way it swims—showing how human creatures have encountered these avian creatures. The Bible takes more time to outline building plans than to imagine the logistics of this gathering. But in our time of dying worlds, we need this mix of taxonomic specificity and general sensitivity in our relationships with living things.
Who knows if such a practice will save our world. But without it,
how will we mourn the floods made for power and recreation, and
the selves we have lost alongside the rest of creaturely life? On the
day the Creator can no longer praise the goodness of creation, our
mourning shall be made into the praise of an inexhaustible well of
What names, for yourself and others, can help you to encounter the world in a more faithful way?
God, let us love the world by bearing witness to its destruction and its perseverance. Amen.