Lessons in Love from a Hedgehog

As the coordinator of educational experiences for gifted children where I am now working, I like to be there for the end result and see how things go.

This weekend we invited our local zoo to bring their outreach animals and other objects to a class for second and third graders who are studying various biomes and the animals found in each one.

We love our local zoo!  They brought a gopher tortoise, a bard owl, a skull and preserved pelt from a jaguar that once lived at the zoo, and a hedgehog. They also brought a variety of veterinary equipment to demonstrate training techniques, the darting process for medicating dangerous animals, and to expemplify the connections between training and providing medical care. 

I learned along with the children and was just as fascinated, but one thing keeps coming back to my heart.  The hedgehog. 

The hedgehog exhibits a behavior known as self-anointing. The words themselves made me immediately think- now that’s not right- aren’t we supposed to seek God’s anointing? But then I saw him do it and not only did I change my mind, I decided that I wanted to be more like the hedgehog.  Here’s why. . .

In the process of self-anointing, the hedgehog will lick the skin or bark of another animal or object, swish the licked scent, or particles of whatever he licked around in his mouth to create foam, and then lick them back onto himself. Sounds pretty gross, I know.

In the wild, “they” think this helps to protect the hedgehog by making him smell like something else that preditors are more likely to ignore. Now I could have seen this as a negative spiritual lesson, something regarding hiding our identity and not being who we were created to be, but- I noticed something about this particular hedgehog- he was partial.

Which I guess is a southern way of saying he had a distinct preference.

He was surrounded by children who all smelled interesting to him- he made his way around the circle sniffing many small feet that were seated in criss-cross-applesauce fashion as they observed him hunting and eating his favorite worms that the zoo’s veterinarian had placed on the floor for him to find. 

But no matter how many children he sniffed-or even licked – the only person with whom he performed the anointing ritual was the zoo keeper who had held and comforted him as he had sleepily been introduced to each child.  He was partial to her – to her scent, to her comforting hands that held him.

He chose the scent of his provider, protector, and comforter to use for his anointing. He chose to smell like the one he trusted. 

Shouldn’t we all do that with God? Shouldn’t we choose to cover ourselves in His essential character, grace, forgiveness, and love?

I could go on for a long time with all the implications that I am finding, but this time, I will leave you to ponder your own thoughts.  



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