I stood in the street with a friend today, watching a sparrow taking a dust bath. A hollow in the grimy tar road had collected enough dirt to offer what was for the little Passerine, the mother of all parasite-hounding dust-scuffles – there were dust puffs spurting in every direction… and in the excited frolic, it was refreshingly oblivious to what was going on around it. I wondered at the parallel between that sparrow’s activities and ours.
We do not know, if fed by human hands, that they would not develop a life-threatening co-dependency foreign to their inbred instincts. For instance, a well-meaning man took it upon himself recently to scatter breadcrumbs for the Mallard and Canada Geese ducklings and a solitary seagull in the neighborhood dam. This he did dutifully for a few days, until a fast growing white cloud of grateful sea gulls descended on us all from every direction to commandeer whatever food was on offer. The moral of the story perhaps: we should not meddle in nature’s stories without thought of the consequences.
Nature’s creatures should earn our respect. They endure the long winter months with such apparent cheer. Even on the coldest days we find them busy and active. They live with hope. Whether by instinct or by past experiences they know spring is ahead, and with it will come the busy work of bringing up the young. Difficulties that even the strongest among us would consider insurmountable are quickly forgotten in a shaft of spring sunlight. For them, hope and daily tasks overtake even the memory of the cold. They keep short accounts in their troubles, unlike many today whose preoccupation with the immediate, and with the ‘now’, distract them easily enough from the bigger picture, and to abandoning their posterity.
Someone asked me recently if I knew what God wanted to do in this season? As I watched that diminutive sparrow something did come to me of God’s grace at work in the minutiae of life. If God could take care of such little things, could he not take care of us?
Is our unspoken legend, “I have to live” or “I have to get on with life”, or “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, what does it matter what goes on around me”, or “my family comes first” et cetera. Shutting out the bigger picture does not help our future, nor does ignoring the specifics and mechanics of each moment. If the solution rests neither in the dusty streets, nor in doubtful post-modern philosophies, where does it lay? Am I convinced that God’s plan cannot be dichotomized between personal and public, private and corporate, local and Translocal. God is the God of both what is among us, and what is beyond us (2 Corinthians 10).
Are we, like that sparrow (though the sparrow will not forget his purpose), capable of losing ourselves in present activities at the cost of the bigger picture , or as those who do not even care one way or the other? The solution requires that we should neither be oblivious of what is beyond us, nor complacent in what is among us. We, unlike the sparrows, have the benefit of greater foresight… and of greater hindsight, so that we should develop the necessary wisdom to expend ourselves more wisely!
John Donne wrote in his Devotions 17, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. What did selfish living ever have to do with meaningful life, anyway? We know instinctively, intellectually and by common sense, that nothing that fails to die, as ‘that kernel of wheat’ (“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seed (John 12:24)”), will ever produce anything but isolated, individualistic and independent subsistence… at its best. To take what God has freely given, and then to turn it to self-gain can only produce a miserable loneliness. No, friends, let’s not be as that man who somehow revised all things back to how it suited him. God spoke a word to me on Vancouver Island recently. He said, “When you take your eyes off me, you will hear everything in the light of how it suits you, and not how it changes you”. Robert Browning wrote in “A death in the desert”, “For I say, this is death, and the sole death. When a man’s loss comes to him from his gain, Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance, and a lack of love from love made manifest”.
Though the thrill of interaction with all created things may sometimes compel us to reach out a hesitant hand to one of God’s little creatures, we will only see even then, that through the same divine DNA that flows in all His creation, a common thread points us all to the long-term consequences of what we do. Life is like a cloth knit together from one corner to the other, each section individually identified, and each color visibly appreciated, but no part separate from the other. Yes! Let’s pay careful attention to all we do, and not claim never to have known how much indeed we do affect each other.
In all matters little or small, should our attitude not be the same as Jesus Christ’s? Expounding on the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians R. T. Kendall recently wrote that Jesus’ attitude was one of “expendability”. This was the measure of all Jesus said and did – he expended himself. He spent himself day by day until the day he gave his own life on the cross for us. In so doing he redeemed us from death. This message cannot be promoted, or stirred up by method or by marketing. Only the Holy Spirit of God can turn a person’s heart to it. Only the Holy Spirit of God can cause anyone to see the marvelous light of Christ. But, his grace, as it covers that little sparrow through the most mundane detail of everyday bird life, is here now to guide us out of even a life of hell. It is here to make sons out of slaves, and saints out of sinners!
© Copyright. Victory Fields
(The beliefs, conclusions, or opinions expressed within this article are entirely those of the author of this article. It is not our intention to suggest either that the authors/writers quoted, in any way agree with what we have written, or that we are expressing their full view on any of the subjects covered)