Sometimes the lessons you're learning are difficult to see in the midst of the circumstances you're living, but this one, I got. I've read about it in books, seen it on television, even talked to people who've had the experience, but today I felt it firsthand.
I've been commissioned to write two more BaptistWay Sunday School lessons for publication next Summer. One of the lessons is on forgiveness, the other on hospitality. I had no idea while sitting at my kitchen table I'd get to practice the compassion of Christ so personally.
Just before 3 pm, I was intently engrossed, typing away when a sudden "bang!" hit the window beside me. My heart skipped a beat, and my hands froze; I was a little afraid to look. Peeking over, a beautiful cardinal lay floundering on our porch, desperately trying to gather his footing. Tiny feathers remained stuck to the window where he'd flown at full-speed, ramming himself into the glass. He was clearly shaken, and my poor heart broke. I began to pray, asking God to help the poor creature. It was so obvious he was terrified and stunned. Exerting every ounce of energy, he tried to fly away, but flapping his wings furiously, he still could not get off the ground.
Then I looked back at the passage of Scripture that lay before me: "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me'" (Matthew 25:40). (I know Jesus wasn't a bird - just hang with me!)
"OK, Lord," I thought, "I'll do what I can, but that bird will be so afraid. He won't know that he can trust me. He might even try to run away or bite me in defense." Stepping outside, I slowly approached the bird, reached down and picked up the delicate creature. His eyes were wide with terror, and he practically trembled in my palm. I gently stroked his soft back, whispered assurances, and walked across the porch to gather some birdseed for him as a token of friendship and compassion. He wouldn't move. He couldn't move.
I carried him to our propane tank in the back yard, set him down with the seed, and turned to walk away, praying that God would either give me wisdom to know how to help, or heal him so he might once again fly. Since it was now 3 pm, I had to leave the defenseless creature for a few minutes while I went to get Lil' D from school. He was high enough our community cats wouldn't notice him immediately and might not be able to get to him without slipping.
When we returned from school, I invited Lil' D to come out with me to see the bird and pray with me God would heal it. As we cautiously walked toward the propane tank, we watched as a flock of various birds scattered from the tree in the backyard. Still our little cardinal sat helplessly perched. When I got within two feet of him and stretched out my hand, he suddenly lifted up and flew away! A prayer answered.
Then I realized, with tears in my eyes, that's what it's like with God and me. Each time I ram my head against the struggles of life, he steps out to meet me, slowly approaches me in my pain, reaches down and picks up my delicate heart. My eyes are wide with terror, and I practically tremble in his hand. He strokes me, whispers assurances, and walks across time and space to offer his friendship and compassion. And yet after all he's done, I'm still afraid. I still doubt that he can be trusted. Sometimes, broken as I am, I even try to fly away or bite back in defense. How foolish I am.
And since I've been shown such compassion and grace, how can I even think of withholding mercy and hospitality to others who have needs and ache, too? Matthew 6:26 says, "Look at the birds of the air... Are you [and others] not worth much more than they?" I think, I hope that I will forever read this passage differently, and remember what a little bird told me.
Thank You Is Not Enough
9 months ago