by Sheri Schofield
The first time I heard of the playful otters, I thought of my grandmother. She grew up in Arkansas and had a southern accent with a faint “r” sound at the end of certain words. She often used “ought” to suggest a course of action to our family. Her advice would begin with, “We ought ter do this . . .” Otter. So of course, I associated that little sea creature with her!
During the past decade since my daughter moved to Alaska, I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things about wildlife in the far north. The sweetest thing I’ve heard is about otters. These little creatures hunt in the ocean. When they get sleepy and need a nap, they find a friend and hold hands. This keeps them from drifting away from the group. Sometimes their groups have hundreds of otters, all holding hands, napping peacefully! Scientists call this a “raft”. In this way, the otters protect one another when they are the most vulnerable.
Those little darlings are onto something very special! They are worth mimicking. So in the year ahead, I’d like to take a moment to think of a couple of things I “otter” do.
Jesus provided a great foundation on this subject. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 NIV
That kind of love is very hard to duplicate! What would that even look like? I’m not sure, but one thing it might mean is that I ought to listen to others better and extend more compassion, because listening with compassion demands that I put myself in other people’s shoes, to see with their eyes and feel with their hearts. It means dying to myself for the sake of entering into another person’s joys and sorrows.
Yes, both joys and sorrows! I know it is easier to feel another’s pain than it is to feel their joy. But joy must be shared if it is to last. I’m fairly quick to reach out my hand to comfort another. But when they are rejoicing? I nod, smile, listen for a few moments then move on. Too many times I forget that joy gives people strength to endure the hard things in life that we all suffer. I ought to do the happy dance with them!
The Apostle Paul gave us some great “Otter Verses”:
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT
Doesn’t that sound like “raft” building?
Many believers are growing weary of the battle between good and evil. We often hear of other Christians around the world who are driven out of their homes or killed because of their faith. Here in the United States, we are struggling to preserve freedom to believe and worship as we choose, for we can see what happens when that freedom is lost.
This is a moment in time when we need to hold onto God for faith and strength, a time when we ought to be holding onto one another so that we do not drift away on the ocean of life, alone and vulnerable. So here’s my hand. Let’s make a raft!
About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!
Sheri’s book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.
Join the Conversation: What ways have you found to “hold hands” with fellow believers?