Yesterday, a life-long dream of mine was fulfilled. For anyone who has grown up watching Mary Poppins or Disney princess movies, you may identify with this desire. At one point in my day I decided to take a moment to pause and take in the beautiful scenery. Nearby I heard a little chirping and looked to see a cute, tiny bird sitting alone in the grass. I whistled a hello and saw him turn his head towards me in response. Keen to get a closer look, I continued to whistle as I crept—slowly, slowly—closer. To my astonishment, I was able to reach my hand right up to the little one and stroke its chest with my finger. Not wanting to frighten him (or her) I did not immediately try to hold it, but rather got it to stand on a stick that I was able to pick up a little. It was so precious and I really felt we were bonding, but I had heard that if you hold a baby bird it will pick up your scent and its mother will not take it back anymore, so I left him and went back to the office. After a while, I returned to the spot and found the creature still there alone. It hopped and flew a few inches at a time, but definitely seemed either somewhat injured or yet unable to fly. Unable to resist any longer, I resumed the wooing until I was able to pick it up and hold the tiny bird in my hand. He quickly became very comfortable with me and for the next few hours we bonded. I walked all around with him sitting on my fingers or my arm. I whistled different tunes and he chirped back every now and then. I could not believe that I was actually holding a wild bird. I thought—wow—I really am a princess.The delightful company of my new little friend began to melt into concern over what I should do with the poor creature. I was not able to find any worms, though I admit I did not look hard enough. I tried feeding it some sesame seeds, but was unsuccessful. In the end, as dinner was starting, I put him back underneath the tree where I had found him. I heard the mother and baby chirping back and forth, and I prayed that God would bring them back together despite my interference. I knew, however, that it probably wasn’t a way for him to get back to his nest without being able to fly, so after dinner I went back to look for him. I figured if he was still there and all alone I would take him home and try to figure out a way to care for him. I was not able to find him and so thought maybe, by some chance, he had reunited with his mother. This morning I found out sadly that that was not the case. Going back to the tree in daylight, I found my little friend. At least I could tell that a cat had not taken him. I believe hunger and cold were the final enemies. So, before worship this morning I buried my little friend and said goodbye. (Now I love animals but am not super soppy about them. I would actually like to go hunting one day. But I had bonded with the helpless little creature and felt responsible for it.)
In worship this morning, I came before the Lord with my questions. I was faced with my selfishness and wondered if I had acted out of compassion or cruelty. I realized that there were two possibilities. Either the bird would have learned how to fly and been fine had my scent and interference not caused it to be rejected by its mother, or the bird had already been rejected before I found it and I was able to bring it comfort and acceptance in the last hours of its life. I really don’t know which scenario is true, but I believe I can learn from both possibilities. Jesus tells His followers:
Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:27-31).
Whatever intentions were in my heart and whatever comfort I did or did not bring, God knows and He is the one who was there in the night. If my heart could connect to this little bird out in the wild, and if I could build his trust and bring him comfort, then how much more does God want me to reach out to the helpless and lonely in this world. Had I not noticed the beauty of the little bird and been drawn to look closer, this out of the ordinary occurrence would not have happened. There are people everywhere who just need someone to love them and to show them the love of Jesus—that they are not forgotten; they are not alone.
I also take comfort in the knowledge that the death of my little friend was not in vain, but through it God has gripped me with His heart for the dying and lonely. I really feel that had I made the decision earlier to try to care for the bird, it could have perhaps survived. It needed more than love; it needed nourishment and warmth and protection. Look at those who are around you, the friend of your child, the grocer with the blank stare, the frightened and neglected person on the outer rim of your acquaintance. See them. Turn aside and reach out to them. Be moved with compassion to give them love. But do not stop there. They need the nourishment of the Word of God. They need the warmth of a committed friend. They need the protection of a mother and father in the Lord. Let us respond to the challenge Jesus presented to Peter—let us begin to feed His sheep.