I've been thinking lately about animals. Especially since I'm a vegetarian, you know, I think about the whole issue of why we shouldn't kill animals. At first, I was soft on the issue. "Well, we shouldn't kill animals in mass numbers. That's just wrong. But I guess if you hunt it/fish it/raise it on a family farm and then kill it, it's not so bad." And then I read some stuff on PETA's website about how animals feel pain. How mama animals love
their young and actually want to be mothers.
Now, I can relate to this, because I'm a mother.
And then I started thinking about - wait for it, Christians! - animal souls. Yes, you read that correctly. My whole life growing up, I learned that animals didn't have souls and humans did, and this is why we are different. Humans aren't "just another animal." Family members (and other members of our faith community) were horrified and outraged if anyone classified humans as animals. Like it was shameful to be placed on the same level as them.
So, I turned to my bible as my source of information. I mean, God's word has to be good for something, right? So, why not find out why we believe what we believe from it?
I found that Ecclesiastes 3
(the famous "there is a time for everything" chapter) held some interesting information for me.
This, of course, raised some questions. The main one, though, deals with us having the same breath.
I'm about to get a little nooma on you.
In the 14th nooma video "Breathe," Rob Bell talks about how, historically, the name for God found in Exodus (where God tells Moses to tell the people "I AM THAT I AM"), the word "Yahweh" or "Jehovah," (rendered YHWH in the Anglicized version) actually is a sound word - literally onomatopoeia - for breathing. Bell says that the words for each letter are Yod Heh Vah Heh, signifying the intake and outlet of breath, and that the Hebrew words for "breath" and "spirit" are the same.
If you think about this, wouldn't that then mean that, when the writer of Ecclesiastes says "all have the same breath," this refers to the breath of life God breathed into us? Traditionally, this breath breathed into Adam has signified God's spirit (which makes sense, if "breath" and "spirit" are the same thing).
But then, does this mean that animals have spirits too?
Honestly, I'm tending to lean more toward the "yes" side of this argument. And you can say what you will. But from my experience with some amazing animals, I wonder: how can they not have spirits?
As for the part of Ecclesiastes 3:21 ("Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"), I don't know. We as humans don't even know enough about our own souls and/or spirits to decipher stuff like that for ourselves.
But, following this train of thought, I sort of maybe witnessed to a dog recently.
Back in February, I was visiting my mom & sisters in South Carolina. My mom has two dogs: Andi and Razz. They're both some kind of mix of shepherd and chow, we think. Razz is Andi's puppy.
Andi is now over 10 years old, and she recently had some digestive issues that had mom concerned that she might not have much longer. While I was visiting, there was one night in particular that we all thought Andi wouldn't make it through the night. She was incredibly weak, but she was also in pain, and so she stood so as not to lie on her stomach, which was apparently causing her much grief. Her ears and tail were drooping, and if she did attempt to walk at all, it was in tiny, shaking steps, not getting her much further than a few inches at a time.
I was very convicted about this animal/spirit concept that night, and at one point I sat on the floor in front of Andi, wrapped my arms around her neck and held her, gently stroking her fur, and whispered into her ear how much God loved her, and that Jesus died for all of us so that we wouldn't be captives to sin anymore. I told her how much God cared for her and wept at her pain. And I told her how I felt maybe a little crazy for telling her those things, but I wanted her to know. Just in case.
It turned out that Andi was just having some old-dog digestive issues, and she's still going. Not as strong as she used to, but she's still alive.
But I don't regret "witnessing" to her at all. And I think I may try to practice this more often in the future.