Nature flicks rarely pierce our souls. But that’s what March of the Penguins did to me.
The movie skillfully “gets out of the way” and walks us through a year in the life of your average Antarctic tuxedoed waterfowl. It fixes our gaze on the astonishing wonders our creative God packaged into this stubby ball of feathers and flab.
I never imagined that
- emperor penguins may have to waddle some 70 miles (112 km) to find a safe place to lay their eggs—the same spot where they themselves hatched. They somehow return to their birthplace even though the shifting ice obliterates all previous landmarks.
- male penguins spend the two-and-a-half coldest winter months in 24-hour darkness, balancing a single egg on their feet and incubating it while the females make the long trek back to the ocean to feed.
- during that time the males must huddle together and keep moving or they will die from the icy gales that can reach more than 100 miles per hour (160 km/hr) and temperatures that plunge below -75F (-60C). If they expose the egg to that cold for more than a minute, it dies.
- the males fast, losing up to half their body weight. Yet they store one meal of regurgitated fish to offer the fledgling once it hatches.
- when the egg hatches, if the female doesn’t return with food within a two-day span, the chick will die and so might the male, who might then not have enough energy left to make it back to sea.
- Mom takes over the task of feeding and sheltering the chick as Dad takes his turn to feed. Before he leaves, he needs to pay careful attention to his chick’s peep. That’s because Mom Penguin must return to the sea before Dad returns to pull his next shift. He’ll rely solely on voice recognition to pick out his chick from the clamoring horde of thousands.
- both penguin parents show genuine affection for their chicks and deep grief if the egg or hatchling doesn’t survive.
- because of their harsh environment, unless penguins strictly choreograph and synchronize their lives, they will all die. Yet they’ve managed to thrive for thousands of years.
Don’t miss this movie (Warner Independent Pictures, 2005, rated G). Here’s a chance to view creation revelation at its most dramatic and poignant. It’s chock-full of profound parables for parents, friends, and church members. I won’t bore you with my personal gleanings except to say that I’m now even more ashamed of blowing my stack when my wife or kids are two-and-a half minutes late.
Apart from giving glory to the Word who called these waddling wonders into being, I can’t resist making one life application that affects us all: For two millennia Jesus has left us standing in the cold, gloomy winter of sin, keeping his kingdom warm until the time is right for his return. To survive, and to allow our precious treasure to survive, we too need to huddle close while we keep moving.
Lord of penguins, through all our frosty Advents, grant us too their tough, persistent, devoted patience!