Octopuses are fascinating creatures. They are just about as weird as it gets. They have three hearts, a brain in each arm, and blue-green blood, and they can squeeze their bodies through a hole as small as their own eyeball. In fact, researchers tell us the octopus DNA is the closest thing they can get to studying alien DNA. Yet octopuses are still highly intelligent, and scientists believe they may help them prove that animals possess some kind of consciousness.
While each of God’s creatures are precious in themselves and full of God’s glory, one thing is certain, the consciousness of animals is very different from our own. Take the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. She would’ve been tied up after the triumphant entry and would’ve been quite happy to stand there for hours on end, waiting for the next person to jump on her back. But if you tie me up outside my local church and leave me to stand for many boring hours, I know I’d act very differently!
After all, we humans have been gifted this amazing, developed consciousness – a profound awareness. We are thinking beings, who can even think about ourselves thinking. Thought, consciousness, awareness – they are all amazing things. While it is mind blowing that we are living on a planet that is hurtling through space, travelling around the sun at 67,000 mph, it is even more astonishing that we know we are living on a planet that hurtling through space, travelling around for sun at 67,000 mph!
Consciousness, though, is also our curse. Our thoughts and awareness can hold us captive. Worry, anxiety, grief, pain, and suffering can keep us chained. All of us struggle personally in one way or another. And then we turn on the news and we see others facing simply terrible situations, whether through war, illness, disability, natural disaster, or grief. There is no sugar coating any of this – life can be harsh and exhausting, and our minds can very easily descend into despair.
But this incredible thing called consciousness also holds the key to the prison in which our minds can become incarcerated. Our consciousness can certainly be a curse, but it can also be an amazing blessing that God has gifted to us. Today, more than any other day, that fact is brought wonderfully home to us. It is Easter Sunday, a day of hope, a day of joy, a day of resurrection, a day of new life. Today we are offered a reassurance and a life-affirming hope that no octopus can ever grasp or comprehend.
God can, though, open the minds, hearts, and lives of us “thinking humans” to this mind-blowing event. And, by doing so, we are offered liberation from the chains of our daily concerns. Our burdened minds are freed to recognise God’s presence in our often-turbulent lives. We open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to truly appreciate the small moments of joy breaking into our lives each day – new life moments – Easter moments. These are moments when sunshine breaks through the darkness we are facing. These are moments when God’s light dazzles us in unexpected ways, sometimes even in our ordinary, mundane events – an uplifting stroll in the countryside, a meal with your family, a walk with your pet dog, laughter shared with a friend, an act of kindness, a supportive word, a simple smile. Sometimes, as we face the storms of this broken world, it’s not easy to rewire our minds away from worry, anxiety, and pain. But, carried by God’s strength, we Christians are able to attest that this wonderful gift of life is beautiful.
Holy Week, culminating in Jesus’s crucifixion, affirms the reality of suffering and reassures us that God knows what it’s like when we are facing the storms of life. He knows pain, he knows loss, he knows tears. Easter Sunday, though, affirms the reality of hope and reassures us that the grave is not the end of the journey, that there is a kingdom all around us that will last forever, and that the light of that kingdom will break through whatever darkness we are facing.