I may not have children, but I have raised many babies. They just happen to have feathers. Most of them have been African Penguins. They start off as gray little fuzzballs with tiny wings and closed eyes. When they grow their first coat of waterproof feathers, they enter what we call the juvenile or blue phase. It gets that name because the gray feathers on most of their body have a blue sheen in the sunlight. They stay in that coat of feathers until shortly after their first birthday. This picture taken by my coworker, shows our youngest penguin, Rosie. You can see that she’s mostly a dark gray, almost black, with just a white belly. The brown tinge to her feathers is just wear and tear – the pigment gradually fades as the feathers age. Looking at her the other day, I realized she wouldn’t look like this for much longer. It is always a bit weird for me watching my babies go from looking like little kids to looking like adults. This happens fast for penguins – in about 2 weeks once they start their annual moult, or shedding of their feathers. All types of birds go through a moult, but most change out their feathers gradually, a couple at a time because they need to use the rest of them for flying. Penguins use their feathers for waterproofing, so they can’t just have little holes in their wetsuits as they slowly change the feathers for new ones. They go through what is called a catastrophic moult. They put on a lot of weight beforehand so they have energy to live off of while they can’t go swimming, then they begin to lose all of their feathers starting at their tail. They look pretty darn ridiculous during this process, but after a couple weeks of shame, they come out with a brand new coat of feathers that makes them stand out as beauties in the flock.
Fairly soon, Rosie and Neville (our other juvenile) will start their moults and they will never look like babies again. They will end up looking like the adults in this picture, two of which used to be my babies as well: Peanut with the purple and black band, and Millie with the purple and red band. This change of appearance always takes a little getting used to, but doesn’t change the fact that they’re still my sweet babies.
Preparing myself for this once again the other day, I was reminded of a Bible verse that describes the change in a person when they accept Jesus as their Saviour. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” When we ask God to wash us clean in the blood of Jesus, we are changed. We might not look different on the outside or even act any different, but the way God sees us changes. Verse 21 in the same passage says, “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” When God looks at us in our new “clothes”, He still knows we are the same people He created and watched grow up, but He sees us as He intended us to be: clean and reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of His Son.