The heavens declare the glory of God,
The skies they proclaim all the works of His hands....
Day after day, they pour forth their speech,
Night after night, they display His knowledge...
Psalms 19a - interpretation by Sons of Korah
It was a beautiful day on the shores of Tadoussac where we were waiting impatiently for our cruise onto the St Lawrence River this August 2018. The bright sun shined brightly in the clear blue sky warming our bodies. In the distance, the fjords were covered with a soft misty fog whose massive shadows were slowly enveloping us. Tadoussac lies conveniently at the mouth of the Saguenay and the St Lawrence River where many different species of whales come to feed during the summer and have their babies. It is a place of refuge for many whales that have been coming to this same spot for generation after generation. The fjords serve for great harbors and special places for whales to raise their babies safely from predators. We all got onto our boat and cruised off towards an area of the St Lawrence where we would be certain to find some whales.
As we continued to move away from the shores of the St Lawrence, we began to lose site of the ominous fjords shadowed by the mist. The mist slowly consumed the fjords until there was nothing more to see. After a few minutes, the same ominous mist that that had also covered the fjords also surrounded us. We couldn’t see anything other than a white foggy mist all around our boat. We felt somewhat disappointed because our hopes of seeing a whale with this thick fog had been shattered. Nonetheless, our boat slowed down to a stop and the announcer on the boat said there was at least one whale on the radar. We waited silently hoping to see something through the thick fog. And then we heard the whale breath! The sound of the whale coming up for air echoed all around us. It was so mysterious. It sounded like the whale was right in front of us, and yet we couldn’t see anything. We continued for quite some time hearing the whale sound a shot through the air for a breath. It was a lovely secretive sound like a song from another time describing their beginnings; a song that they have always sung in the hopes that we might understand and remember of a time before time “When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)? The sounds of the whale’s breathing and smacking fins against the water created a continuous, resonating echo to our ears. The sounds cut to our spirit that makes up all flesh, that we are the sons of Adam, created in God’s image to tend and care for God’s creation. Oh, how we have forgotten!
Through the mist and the foreboding sounds of breathing and smacking, our boat floated upon a beautiful humpback whale, happily lying on its back while steadily beating her fins against the eerily still waters. It was incredibly calm in that moment without any wind on the foggy waters. She was so calm and enormous, with huge white fins the length of at least three grown six-foot men. She is a visible sign of God’s strength, beauty and majesty: “Let the sea roar and all its fullness” Psalms 96. She showed no signs of distress and she let us admire her for quite some time until she proceeded to show us her tail and disappear beneath the waters below. I felt a special calling that day when I was so close to a whale as I am sure many others were feeling. If they didn’t feel anything, I would blame it on how we are so disconnected from God’s creation.
As I think back to the amazing spectacle that this whale made for us, I think of a more recent story that has made headlines. It was the story of a killer whale on the west coast of Canada named Tahlequah who made a poignant declaration that our earth is sick: “The curse has devoured the earth and the earth is defiled under its inhabitants” (Isaiah 24:5-6). We have forgotten our covenant with God, and with His whales: God’s glory is seen through His creation, however we see the groaning and the laboring pangs of creation (Romans 8:19-22). The heartfelt pain of Tahlequah as she mourned the death of her baby calf for seventeen days has touched many throughout the world. She made a glaring spectacle to the world; if only the sons of Adam would remember their role and return to the Creator! One of God’s majestic creatures has to make that declaration since the sons of Adam refuse to humble themselves. The death of this baby was hard on the entire pod; they all carried the baby and mourned with her. It seems like the whole pod family took this death hard because the pod knows that they haven’t had a live birth in three years. They know something is wrong and yet they do not know why. Humans however can know why the whales are dying; their food supplies have disappeared and their ocean is continuously polluted with plastic. They are expressing a desire to live, that touches our hearts.
The seventeen-day mourning shakes us up because it wakes our same spirit that created all flesh, where we were once all in union with a special calling from God to protect it. Sadly, we hear but we don’t see; we see but we don’t hear. We have chosen to ignore the spirit of God that has created all flesh and yet Tahlequah is crying out desperately for us to hear. Their family wants to live since it knows nothing else. Through Tahlequah’s cries she is telling us : “Please listen, we are sick, our earth is sick; repent, turn to God, and remember our covenant with the whales.” How long will God wait before He has had enough? Will He delight in the annulation of these creatures? How far will God’s love for humanity, the crown of His creation, go if it means the destruction of His beautiful creatures who are so similar to us in their desire to live and raise a family? What will it take for us to wake up?