Warning: This one might get a little religion-y.

Any of you who regularly grace this blog with your eyeballs know that I often walk in the Cypress Wetlands after my morning workout at the Y. Today I could hardly wait to hit the trail; after a week of hundred-degree humidity, fall snuck in last night, bringing cool breezes and clear golden light. I’m not deluded enough to believe it’s here to stay – it’s more like a sneak preview – so I’m soaking it up while I can, baby!

As I’ve said here before, the trail is one of the few places I seem to find peace these days. All over the world, the human community is unraveling – exploding! – but there in the cypress wetlands, all is harmony and beauty. Or so it appears to my untrained eye.

I’m especially drawn to the rookery; I could watch the water birds swoop and glide and fuss over their nests all day. While crossing the boardwalk this morning, I stopped at an information kiosk to read about the Birds of Prey. The barred owl and the hawk are among my favorite sights, and I wanted to learn a bit more about them. Near the end of the write-up, a sentence struck me – it wasn’t new information, but I’d never thought about it too much:

The raptors cull the slow, the weak, and the sick, which helps keep the population healthy.

I walked on, but that sentence stayed with me, running through my head as I circled the trail.

The raptors cull the slow, the weak, and the sick, which helps keep the population healthy.

As I picked up my pace, I saw my friend Harold walking toward me from the other direction. Harold is 80-something years old and has been a workout buddy of mine for almost a decade. There was a period of a few months when he stopped showing up at the Y. I figured he’d just changed his schedule, but later learned he’d had open-heart surgery following a massive heart attack. That was a couple of years ago, I believe. Harold’s back at the Y almost every morning now, though I think he comes mainly for the chatting and the laughing. Everybody at the Y loves Harold and I can’t imagine the place without him. This morning he teased me about “walking too fast” – like he always does when we pass on the trail – we slapped hands, and walked on in opposite directions.

And still the sentence was running through my head: The raptors cull the slow, the weak, and the sick, which helps keep the population healthy… So simple; so matter-of-fact; so perfectly sensible. And yet . . . there was something about that sentence that repelled me, that made me shudder.

And then it hit me: This. This is the reason that, despite my very strong and genuine attraction to paganism and pantheism and all the other more “nature based” religions and belief systems, it is Christianity that keeps drawing me back, that holds my heart and guides my feet. Because, though we are animals – and we often act like it, for good and ill – we are more than animals, too. God knows, the human population is not “healthy” – we need only turn on the news to know that – but my human heart, my human spirit, every fiber of my human being, strains against the notion of “culling the slow, the weak, and the sick.”

In other words, people like Harold.

The human community is messed up, and messed up bad. It always has been, and – who knows? – maybe it always will be. But there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio… and it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. My teacher, my Lord, spoke in cryptic parables and paradoxes. He wrapped his truth in mysteries and riddles we human animals don’t quite understand. But they resonate. For me, anyway, they resonate.

Logic tells us that “culling the slow, the weak and the sick” to help keep the population healthy makes perfect sense. But Jesus told us, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

My mind doesn’t quite grasp what Jesus meant by that – not yet, anyway – but my heart knows it’s true.