Graceline: Will you be the bird in the hand?

September 15, 2013 

Wanda has the carport looking good. She has everything organized neatly on shelves.

On the top shelf at the back wall, she has a vase of artificial flowers. Some of them are bright red, a beacon for hummingbirds.

September is gorging time for hummingbirds. We have three feeders and a dozen or so tiny babies pushing and shoving each other jockeying for position to drink their fill of the sweet nectar.

By the end of the month, they will begin their journey back to Central America, flying for as many as 18 hours non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. They will double their weight this month storing energy for the trip.

They are carnivores, eating mostly flies, mosquitoes and insects. They need the sugary nectar for energy in order to catch their real food and eat as much as possible prior to heading south.

Hummingbirds are extremely territorial and individualistic animals. They spend more time warding off competitors than they do drinking. So I’m sure a bunch of juicy red flowers where there seems to be no competition is very inviting.

Today, we had our second female trapped in the carport with the door wide open. You would think they would just fly out, but they cannot.

Hummingbirds fly vertically whenever disturbed, and then they fly horizontally in order to escape would-be predators. Realizing she had been duped by the nectar-less flower, she tried to fly up, up and away, but she kept bouncing off the ceiling.

It was pitiful to watch. She just kept flying into that endless span of what looked like a big white sky, only to bounce off and feel all the energy she was trying to store up quickly drain away.

Wanda and I felt so sorry for this tiny baby. I got the ladder and tried to coax her into perching on my finger, but she was too frightened. Finally, I gently hemmed her in with both hands being very, very careful not to damage her wings. A broken wing is a death sentence for these tiny creatures.

When I secured her, I could feel her wings cease fluttering and her body go limp. Hummingbirds do “play possum” when captured, but this one was just plain exhausted. No telling how long she had beaten herself against the ceiling before Wanda discovered her.

I handed her to Wanda, who took her to the back yard where we hang our feeders. She put her on a chair, and the bird just laid there panting, her dark eyes blinking. After about 30 minutes, Wanda went out to see if she would perch on her finger so she could take her to the feeder, but she suddenly came alive. This time she did fly up, up and away. It was such a thrill and a blessing.

The plight of that tiny bird is not unlike our journey in a fallen world. God gave Adam and Eve Himself and all of creation to enjoy. Then the devil came along waving artificial flowers and making false promises of freedom and independence. Once they realized how they had been deceived and that the fruit did not provide the treasure they desired, they were very afraid. They ran, trying desperately to escape from God hiding in the bushes.

Isn’t it ironic the only one who could save them was the one from whom they were running, much like our trapped hummingbird. That tiny bird had no idea her only salvation resided in the big scary looking guy who was trying to catch her. She would have died in the carport, her energy spent in futility, starving on flowers that provide no nourishment. I pursued her, doing all within my power to restore her freedom and destiny, which she lost when she was deceived by the flowers.

When I finally had her in my hands, she surrendered. She just gave up and gave in to me. She was exhausted. When she gave me control, I gave her back her life and her freedom. I watched over her while she rested and after a few minutes, she flew away rejoicing with Wanda and me smiling so much our teeth dried out.

I bet that is how God feels when He sets us free and watches us fly off to fulfill our destiny. He has been pursuing us with love and compassion ever since the garden. He just wants to love us and set us free. He simply wants to enjoy life with us. He understands the devil has duped us into believing God is not good and is keeping the good stuff for Himself. He knows we are scared and what we truly need is for Him to love us to life.

Are you tired of trying to fill the longings of your heart with nectar-less idols that cannot satisfy your soul? Don’t be afraid. God is pursuing you not to destroy you, but to set you free. He knows how tired you are.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30, The Message.

“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.” – Matthew 6:25-26, The Message.

They say a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Adam and Eve were the two in the bush. Will you be the bird in His hand?

Kenny Ashley is pastor of The Journey in Lake Wylie.

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