In the Land of Armadillos

February 18, 2019

 

I love those moments where God's truth in one place resonates with God's truth in another. This time the connections were myriad!

 

I was reading Helen Maryles Shankman's short story, In the Land of Armadillos. In the story she details the horrifying interactions between a Polish Jewish artist and a Nazi SS Major who has conscripted him to paint a mural in his young son's bedroom. While the SS major is out killing Jews, the artist is painting scenes of shalom (reproduced from a children's book he'd written about an armadillo falling in love with a cockatoo, and then starting a cafe in Paris, where difference could be embraced, and everyone was free from judgment and could just be themselves).

 

After one particularly 'difficult' day of meting out evil, the SS major comes home and enters the bedroom/studio... and time seems to stop as he takes in the newly painted scene; 

 

"Red armadillos tramped up and down blue hills and paraded past cotton-candy-colored shops in the village, while blue cockatoos nested in the lofty branches of the baobab trees. At the cafe, all kinds of creatures sat together in fantastic, whimsical combinations. A dog shared a table with a cat; a fish buttered a baguette for a canary. A bull wearing bifocals read a Journal while his friend the sea serpent stirred an espresso; a pink pig in a striped shirt and a beret-wearing poodle posed before tiny glasses of a clear cordial; a crocodile shared a kiss with a hare. Stranger yet were the humans; a blue man with a striped face; a beautiful girl with scales and a tail..." (page 31)

 

Reading these words I couldn't help but recall colorful scenes of inter-species unity from the animated film Zootopia. Then, of course, the words from the prophet Isaiah came to mind - about the lamb laying down with the lion, and the child playing near the cobra's nest. Every time those words come to mind I'm reminded that Isaiah was actually riffing on some Sumerian poetry from his day; that pointed to a time where, "The raven utters no cry... the lion kills not, the wolf snatches not the lamb, unknown is the kid-devouring dog."

 

As I'm reading these words describing this mural in this a book, all of these other images and experiences of the-world-as-it-should-be are echoing through my imagination. 

 

Of course, I believe that God is the author of each iteration.

 

All animals-living-in-peace truth is God's animals-living-in-peace truth. 

 

And the Spirit of God - who longs for the world to be as it should be - is whispering to any artist, poet, or storyteller who'll listen. 

 

Of course, as I start to think about it more, Jesus's all-inclusive teachings and actions come to mind (don't judge, love your neighbor as yourself), and then the Apostle Paul's words join the chorus:

 

“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female (predator and prey). Among us you are all equal.” 

Galatians 3:28, MSG

 

“For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”

Ephesians 2:14, NIV

 

And as all of these Spirit-inspired echoes of God's unity-in-diversity truth come alive, and start dancing together in my mind, I find myself surrounded by the swirling certainty that God really is mysteriously holding and keeping all of this going. 

 

God's unity-in-diversity truth has been echoing throughout creation for eternity. Even, and perhaps especially so, in this one little paragraph, of one little story, about the horrors of the Holocaust. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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