Meandering Manatees

by Joanie Butman


An amazing thing happened this week that reinforced last week’s theme of God’s unconditional love. I met one of His homeliest creations – the manatee. I don’t know what the manatee’s purpose is in the ecosystem nor do I need to. His value as one of God’s creatures is innate. Known as a Sea Cow, they don’t do a lot except eat. They spend approximately 50% of the day sleeping, and the remainder of the time grazing, consuming up to 10-15% of their body weight per day.* Sounds like a lot of people in Florida – including myself for the past month! Their intrinsic value is certainly not based on their beauty or physique, and we could all learn something from their gentle, peaceful existence, seemingly content to just ‘be.’

I’ve been visiting Florida for 20 years, and the closest I've gotten to seeing one of these chubby creatures is the manatee mailboxes that are popular in our neighborhood.This week a family of four wandered into the canal behind our house. Someone once told me they like to drink fresh water, and if you hold a hose close to the water, they’ll come drink out of it. Though I was skeptical, I decided to try it. I sat on the dock and lowered the hose searching the canal for them when they popped up at my feet for a drink. It was startling as they are HUGE. I discovered they’re very polite, as I observed them taking turns at the hose. They stayed for about an hour and probably would have hung around longer if I kept the water flowing.

Their behavior reminded me of another divine truth. Jesus is waiting to offer fresh ‘water’ to all who choose to seek Him. Our spiritual thirst can only be satisfied divinely, though we’ve probably all attempted to quench it with worldly things at times. Blessedly, God supplies His Holy Spirit as an internal compass that directs us back to His Divine source of fresh ‘water’ if we so desire. I also learned that manatees have long-term memory and will return to their spring of fresh water as well. I’ve been waiting but haven’t seen them yet.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1)

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)


As I watched those manatees guzzle the water with obvious gusto and float away contentedly, I thought of my daily quiet time with the Lord. Our ‘cawfee’ talks refill my spiritual reservoir, allowing me to float into my day peaceful and content. Sometimes it lasts five minutes, sometimes five hours. More often than not, I’ve got to consciously choose to return to my spiritual fountain frequently during the day to maintain the peace that transcends human understanding that Christ promises. He doesn’t guarantee a problem-free existence – quite the opposite. As calm and serene as manatees seem, even they face their own adversities. However, what Christ does promise is His presence and peace in the midst of our circumstances. Regrettably, there are plenty of times I forget that assurance and find myself paddling furiously and still sinking. 

Today I am choosing to do my best manatee impression, sleeping a lot, eating 15% of my body weight, drinking my fill of living water and floating peacefully through the day with love and gratitude in my heart.