Spirit Animals3 min read

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1–3 ESV).

Take a moment and go back with me to a time when life was simpler. Back when toilet paper was in such plentiful supply, we would use it to decorate the trees of our enemies. Back when social media was being utilized for its originally intended purposes: narcissism and political fights. Ah yes, those good old days that we all call……. February.

It’s been a long few weeks.

I hope you will forgive my humor. I don’t mean to make light of our situation. I only wish to point out that, not too long ago, our thoughts, plans, and priorities were vastly different. So, while social media has transitioned a bit into a community of people sharing information, humor, and compassion for others, I would enjoy our world returning back to normal and allowing us to go back to online quizzes telling us which member of the cast of a TV show we are based on our birth month and first letter of our last name, or which critter is our spirit animal.

That said, perhaps we should look at the spirit animal question more closely.

A spirit animal is a metaphor. We choose them based on perceived character traits that the animal has that we emulate or admire. Are you athletic and fast? You might choose a cheetah. Are you determined and persistent? You could be a turtle. Are you intuitive and wise? You would likely pick an owl. Finally, if you demand constant attention and frequent feedings, you’re a dachshund (sorry, personal observation based on a four-legged member of my family).

Why discuss all of this? It’s because at this moment in history I think we as Christian educators can all relate to two animals whose traits would serve us well: the chameleon and the leopard.

Why a chameleon? I think that’s easy. Chameleons have a unique defense mechanism of changing the color of their bodies to blend in with their surroundings. This adaptability reflects the mood of the chameleon, and it also helps to protect it from predators.

Why a leopard? Well, it has less to do with the leopard than it does with the common phrase associated with it: “A leopard never changes its spots.” People say this about the leopard to demonstrate how, deep down, we cannot change who we are.

So, what do you get when you combine a chameleon and a leopard? A ridiculous contradiction! True, but let me explain.

Right now, your profession has you acting like a chameleon. You’ve adapted to a rapidly changing educational landscape. Online platforms, video conferencing, and mailing packets of work have suddenly replaced classrooms and desks. At least you had a day or two to prepare for this! You have accomplished a tremendous amount in a short time, and you will continue to adapt because your students’ needs demand it. I thank God for you and for your dedication to the ongoing success of your students, no matter what the world throws at you.

But more important than being an occupational chameleon is the need to be a faithful leopard. In a time of travel restrictions, supply shortages, a volatile economy, and shelter in place orders caused by the coronavirus, we must stand firm in the knowledge that God remains in control. Our faith in Him and His promises does not waver. Despite the challenges that we face, God’s love for us remains constant and unchanging. As we adapt to the rapidly changing world in which we live, we cling to the firm foundation that is our God.

May our Father send you the extra measure of strength and perseverance you will need to face each day with renewed faith and purpose, now and always.

Chameleon photo (c) KP Bodenstein/Unsplash; leopard photo (c) Geran de Klerk/Unsplash

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About the Author

Richard Schumacher is the Senior Director of Operations for Lutheran Special Education Ministries.

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Paul Appold - March 28, 2020

Really great article! I love it!

Dina Matasovsky - March 31, 2020

Well said Rich! Words I needed to hear today!

Nancy Timm - March 31, 2020

Thank you for the encouragement, Rich, and for the humor!

Lisa - March 31, 2020

A “laugh out loud” that I needed !