Birds and bugs and the image of God

by Kevin Birnbaum

I love this poem by the 19th-century English Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

I think it beautifully captures an important and powerful truth—that everything on earth praises God by being what it is and doing what it was created to do. For most things, that comes naturally—rocks and bugs can’t help being rocky and buggy, respectively. But we are creatures made in the image and likeness of God, and we have a choice. We have to decide to do what we were created to do, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself.

Photo by André Karwath.