Have you seen this video? Take a moment to watch it today.
Now that I’m working from home, it is not unusual for my phone calls or Zoom chats to be peppered with budgie cheeps. We share our living room with two of them. Not only are there birds inside the house, there are a couple of bird feeders outside. We delight in seeing the cardinals, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, blue jays - and many more - dropping by to say “hi” to us each day. Surely they know we are bird people.
We do let the budgies fly. They love to swoop around us, “buzzing” our heads and laughing as they land back on their cage (OK, maybe I’m projecting a little anthropomorphism here). There is indescribable beauty in the motion of their wings, the colours of their feathers, the grace of their flight.
For millennia, humans have been mesmerized by the idea of flight. It is only in the last century that we have mastered it - if you call aluminum tubes with 18 inches of leg room “mastery” of flight. Although we now understand the physics behind air pressure, drag, and lift, we have not mastered the grace and beauty of a bird in flight.
It should not surprise you, then, to know that I take delight in the bird images used in Scripture to remind us of God’s care and protection:
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
(Psa. 36:5-7 ESV)
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
(Psa. 61:1-4 ESV)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD,
"My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
(Psa. 91:1-6 ESV)
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isa. 40:28-31 ESV)
There is beauty in these words. While we may now be able to explain how a bird flies, the majesty of a soaring eagle still captivates our hearts and imaginations. There is strength in their wings - both in flight and in protection of their young. What better image to summarize God’s care over us?
Just as we can explain the dynamics of the physics behind flight, we can use technical jargon to discuss the nature of God’s care. That is useful - as is getting in an aluminium tube to travel. But theological definition doesn’t come close to portraying the beauty and warmth and intimacy of God’s care for us. We need the poet, not the theologian, to help us understand that.
So, we watch the birds soar. We admire their care for hatchlings. Have you ever tried to approach a Canadian goose who has a young brood? You may get nipped. If these critters can care for their offspring with such tenacity and passion, how much more does the Creator God our Heavenly Father watch and care over us, His image-bearers?
Here is your homework for this week: find a few moments to get outside. Watch the birds - any birds. If possible, watch them fly. Admire the strength and agility of their wings because that is but a small representation of God’s care for each of us.