Over the past weeks and months we have enjoyed applying Jesus' injunction to 'consider the birds of the air'. A while ago I was in our kitchen and noticed a female blackbird building a nest in our clematis at the back fence. This spurred weeks of watching as she incubated the eggs, and as the male and female fed their young scaldies in the nest. Last week we caught our first sight of the fledglings, and tracked their progress through them being fed by their parents in the shelter of the garden, until their final departure. It has been a special privilege.
As we have watched this wildlife journey unfold a number of spiritual lessons from these garden residents have emerged:
1. The importance of shelter: our clematis was a fairly unlikely and pretty inhospitable place to build a nest, but the female bird made it her home - content with even the roar of passing traffic and construction workers right behind where she was dwelling. What a lesson for us as we contemplate moving away from the place and the people which we count as home. God provided shelter for these birds in a location that to the human eye looked precarious, but provided protection and comfort. We don't know at the moment where we will live in the city of Arequipa whilst engaged in language study, nor where we will live after that. This is compounded by thinking about our little one, and the importance of security and stability for them (God willing). Our God has gone ahead of us, and knows exactly where we will dwell - regardless of geography, we know that it will be in the shadow of the Almighty...
2. The unfailing provision of God: no sign of sowing, reaping, or gathering into barns, but these blackbirds were fed abundantly day by day. It was glorious to see both birds return to their nest time and again with beaks full of grubs, so that their scaldies could have bellies full of grub. The provision didn't fail, and even the rainfall brought worms to the surface of the soil - all sent by God. We have already proven this truth for ourselves. We have been living by faith during this year, and not once has God's supply run dry. What a blessing that our 'heavenly Father knows'.
3. The investment of life in God's providence: the adult birds, incubated, protected, and fed their young. Their concern was visible by the fact that the male bird resolutely refused to enter the nest while I sat in the garden - regardless of how long I waited, or how still I remained. The time came, however, for the birds to fledge, which meant that there was nothing for it but to leave the birds while food was sought for them. The providence of God kept them, and for all we know the providence of God may have allowed some of them to perish - but the birds had to simply leave matters to Him. How we need grace to do the same. Sometimes we get a controlling perspective on life, and want to work out how the future will pan out - all we can do is live the path He has for us, and leave the details and outcomes to Him.
4. The realisation of life's passing seasons: nesting, incubating, hatching, feeding, fledging, all in a short period of weeks. A journey into life which in human terms seems so brief. And yet we are no different, we only have this one life, the journey is half spent before we come to appreciate its worth. What an encouragement to live every moment in the conscious presence of God, seeking to make our actions and attitudes count for Him.
We're so privileged to have witnessed the lives of these beautiful birds, and we're blessed to have been stirred by them to consider the goodness of our great God.