By: Jae Martin
Birds have an enchanting ability to stop me in breathless wonder, grip my heart with the beauty of their delicate markings, feathers, and songs, and cause my heart to soar in awestruck admiration for the One who so intricately designed such marvelous little displays of creative perfection.
Throughout my life, and for a myriad of reasons, birds have often been a token reminder of God’s love and care for me. In a moment of sadness - my heart has been lifted by the sudden appearance of the most astoundingly blue Indigo Bunting I’ve ever seen perched on a stop sign. Right in the midst of an outbreak of anger towards the kids - a radiant Red Bellied Woodpecker was comically bobbing around the tree trunk just outside the window. Just when I despaired at the chaos of having four little ones, I spotted a pair of Eastern Bluebirds building a nest. We all watched in wonder for almost an hour, giggling at the way the male popped his head from the hole and manically shook tree bits from his beak.
A couple of years ago, shortly after our third child was born, I suffered drastically from depression. I was on edge, angry, constantly crying, frightfully hopeless. I didn’t know the cause... so naturally I blamed my husband Scott. Or the kids. Or the house. However, the most common blame was placed on my inability to measure up to other moms. It ate at me constantly. The house wasn’t clean enough or decorated just right, my hair wasn’t trendy, and my clothes were out of style. My kids didn’t remember their manners, or stay clean while eating their unhealthy food. I had one friend in particular who was so well put together I found myself almost hating her for being so perfect. And yet I frantically tried to be just like her. I was in bondage to comparison and falling terribly short.
Eventually things hit a breaking point between Scott and I. I was overwhelmed by all that was “expected” of me and he was overwhelmed by how often I broke down in sobs or randomly stormed out of the house in anger. We decided I might need a regular break and put the kids into a creative learning center-aka-daycare.
I’ll never forget the very first time they went.
They left early in the morning with Scott. I made myself a piece of toast and a cup of coffee. Fancy, I know. But the thing that made this particular breakfast indulgent was that both items were still hot… while I was consuming them. A small joy, but it wasn’t lost on me. I sat peacefully outside taking in all the sensual delights around me. The sunshine’s warmth on my skin, the smell of my coffee, the breeze gently tickling the leaves of trees that were filled with voices...
I was suddenly struck by the unbelievable diversity of song. One voice sang high and sweet, while another twittered cheerily, still another in clumsy tune squawked awkwardly and low. One laughing. One trilling. Another with a mournful song all of its very own. Each voice holding its own line in a chorus of unending song. Look at the birds.
It was like a whisper. Yet it struck me to my very core - look at the birds. I ran inside to get my Bible and glanced the library book I’d been reading to the kids that week, Mama Built a Little Nest. A picture book that illustrates the different types of homes birds make for their young, it depicts everything from a simple rock with a dip to an elaborate woven ball. Back in my chair serenaded by a cacophony of birdsong I read this passage in Matthew:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?…”
If I (the reader) am more valuable to God than the birds then couldn’t it imply that He took equal, maybe even greater care when he formed me? The pigeon walks differently than the Great Blue Heron. The toylike squeak of a finch is vastly different from the friendly peeps of a Tufted Titmouse. There are so many different kinds of birds; who look different, sound different, build different homes, raise their young with different methods, eat different food, sing different songs… but all for the same purpose - God’s glory.
So what was I thinking trying to be a type of bird-er person- that God did not create me to be? One bird doesn’t try to be some other type of bird. I was so concerned about looking and sounding and acting like someone else that I had effectively enshrouded myself in the outward appearance of a person I was not created to be. And it was crushing me.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
I let the weight of all that comparison fall away and just breathed in the freedom. My heart soared with the realization that I did not have to be the same as my friend. God has created each of us for his purpose and his glory and he promises to protect and provide for our needs in the life that he’s called us to. (Psalm 91:4)
Just as he created each and every species of bird to be gloriously its own, God made you to be a unique display of creative perfection. So rest from comparison. And maybe every now and then, pause... and look at the birds.