A Lesson from a Tiny Bird

Creation tells stories – all the time, in many ways, with strong, natural colors mixed with subtle, strange sounds. It groans in anticipation of the return of the King and it whispers of His presence here, now. My perception has gotten keener over the years. I guess in a way, I have trained myself to “pay attention.” Annie Dillard, a fine writer, sees nature around her as a scrapbook, telling the tales of the making of the Kingdom of God. In her view, nature both reveals and obscures Him. Both, and simultaneously. Wonder of wonders, mystery, complexity and beauty all wrapped into this One God. Nature  propels us to search and keeps us always looking for more.

Yesterday, I saw a small, hopping-about bird on my patio. Standing at the window, I took the time to just notice. After discreet observation, I actually noted his efficient eating pattern, and gradually I saw right through him, into a bigger allusion. A sermonsurfaced, a theological truth fleshed out in this tiny, puffy, bird.

There hangs, in the bush outside our sliding glass door, an unsteady, unwieldy bird-feeder. I fill it almost every other day with popular sunflower seeds. I am always hoping for a redbird, but  instead a grey, mechanical-looking Tufted Titmouse carefully landed on a branch and jumped onto the swinging feeder, looking for a convenient bite  Quickly, he darted into an opening in the bush and looked around, making sure all was private and secured. With a successive and redundant motion, he took the sunflower seed, smashed it on the branch, cracked it open, and enjoyed his small seed. Keeping his eyes on watch alert, he sat for a moment, and darted back to the feeder for more treats! It seemed to me like such hard work. And yet he kept going, repeating what was laborious and tedious. All for food!

I read an interesting quote today from the book Life With God by Richard Foster: “The opposite of grace is works, but not effort.” Our theology can sometimes lead us down a road veering off from the intended course. We are told to “Wait on God.” We are told to be still, that He will fight for us, and that apart from Him, we can do nothing. All of this is true, biblical and sound. Yet somewhere along the timeline of our faith, we started to believe that we are hamstrung, capable of only sin, wanting in everything, and therefore waiting exclusively on Him. I learned a lesson from the Tufted Titmouse: work hard. Search, seek, dig, find, endure and sweat for something of value.

Foster talks about God-ordained means of transformation. As people in such dire need for ultimate salvation and daily rescue from ourselves, we must participate in this faith. Meditation, fasting, prayer, study, solitude and silence, community and confession lead us into His transforming presence and life-giving resources.

So with a motivated heart, and with an expectant, watchful eye, submit to Peter’s bold command in the first chapter of his second letter, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Dawn graduated from Messiah College with a degree in English and went on to get her master’s degree in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She presently works as a counselor and teacher in the high school at Covenant Day School in Matthews, NC and in her spare time likes to read, write and teach Bible studies. For the last 15 years her passion has been to mentor young women in life and Scripture. Dawn’s blog may be seen here: www.dawnfromphilly.blogspot.com.

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