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It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature




And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. ~ Mark 1:10-12


For a bird that finds it’s food underwater, you might think that cormorants would come equipped with waterproof feathers standard. It’s not even an available upgrade. No, before a cormorant can fly, it has to dry its wings. That is why they are so often seen perched on a rock or a branch holding out their wings and waiting. You would be excused for thinking that cormorants are still in beta release and that this will get addressed when Cormorant 1.0 is released, but this is an actual case of it being a feature, not a bug. Diving underwater is more difficult if you are water repellent and thus more buoyant. The fact that cormorant feather absorb water means that the bird in effect becomes heavier and can dive deeper and longer, thus improving its ability to chase the fish that it eats. You might even say that the designer knew what they were doing.


I can imagine that cormorants could be easily tempted to exchange their feathers for the type that allows water to roll right off your back. Hey, it is good enough for the ducks, right? But that is exactly the point, it could definitely be a good thing to avoid all that wasted, vulnerable time drying your wings, but it would be the wrong good; good for a duck, bad for a cormorant.


When Jesus came up out of the waters of his baptism, he, like a cormorant, was not quite ready to fly. First he had to spend some time in the wilderness being tempted. Notice that the tempter suggests things that are not exactly bad – creating food from readily available material, ruling the world (we could do worse than King Jesus), and demonstrating without doubt that he was God’s chosen (surely more people would have believed if he was caught by angels before hitting the ground after a long fall). While these things were potentially good, they were the wrong good for Jesus. He was called to show us that we all are made in the image of God and thus are capable of far more than we allow ourselves to believe. He couldn’t do that properly if he weren’t truly one of us.


If you knew that cormorants were unhappy with the burden of drying their wings while missing the gift of extraordinary swimming skills, how would you convince them that they are blessed not cursed? Likely the best way would be to become one of them so they will listen and you can help them understand by showing them the way. Sound familiar? God loved us enough to become one of us to show us that much of what we see as human bugs can actually be divine features.


Prayer: Divine Designer, help us see beyond our known issues to the glorious hope of the upgrade you always offer. Amen.

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