By Rachel Vandyke
Children’s Pastor, Living Hope Church, Little Falls
My name is Pastor Rachel. I am the children’s pastor at Living Hope Church in Little Falls. Because I work with kids, I hear all of the stories of the adventures these kids and their friends have. I hear of the joy and the excitement as they learn from day-to-day, I hear of the heartache and trouble that comes from being told, “I’m not your friend anymore.” I hear of the love between friends as they resolve their differences and are back to being glued at the hip. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, it’s encouraging and it is sometimes devastating.
I’ve recently learned an intriguing yet also very sad fact about penguins. In a penguin waddle (colony) they are incredibly close-knit. Penguins actually show a curious amount of incredible emotional intelligence. Now, when a child walks up to me with tears in their eyes because someone won’t be their friend anymore, it’s one of the hardest things to watch even though I know that the very next day, they’ll be best buds again.
As they grow into being a teenager, the stakes go higher. Suicide rates and depression increase, lost and lonely feelings are more prominent, and the feeling of isolation is near impossible to lose.
In a penguin waddle, if a penguin feels disconnected from the rest of the group, i.e. he feels he has no friends, he will wander away from the rest of the group to die. I wanted to cry when I read this, yet it pointed to an incredibly sad fact of our human nature as well when we look at suicide rates from those who just couldn’t do it anymore.
In the New Testament book of Colossians, chapter 3 verse 12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
As Christians, are we doing this? As people who follow God, can we say we treat people with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? Are we seeking those who are down-and-out, those who are lonely, those who are frustrated, those who are hurting, and treating them with these very qualities? Are we chasing after those who want to wander away from the group because they believe the lie that the world would be better without them? Are we being the type of friend God has asked us to be?
I have by no means got this down. I can learn to be a better friend. I can learn to treat people the way God has asked me to. I long to live a life that God finds pleasing, a life that doesn’t leave any one of his beloved children behind. Challenge yourself to do the same. Challenge yourself to see the lost “penguin.” To do what God has asked. To be a friend.