I suppose I should preface this post by saying I don’t consider myself to be particularly punny – that’s the province of my daughter, Jessie, who inherited her dad’s sense of humor – but this title, well, I couldn’t resist . . .
Since the weather’s been more seasonably cold, I’ve added suet to the feast I set out for my bird friends. Brown thrashers are among those who want to partake of the high-calorie goodness. To say they have trouble steadying themselves on the suet basket would be a significant understatement. Inevitably, when one lands on the suet, it starts to wobble. This in turn causes the bird to flap frantically which results in the basket spinning around, bringing about another flurry of desperate flapping. It’s a rather comical sight, but also somewhat sad because the thrasher’s behavior keeps him from the nourishment he’s seeking .
Compare this to the behavior of the stately woodpecker who frequents the suet. Every bit as big as the thrasher, he has no trouble positioning himself on the basket and consuming the nutritious treat. Even if the suet shifts slightly, even if he has to hang from the bottom of the basket when the suet’s almost gone, there’s no anxious flapping of wings or shifting about. The woodpecker remains calm, focused on the sustenance before him.
Just as I recognize I’m not exceptionally adept with puns, I’ll also readily admit I don’t know very much about birds. No doubt a knowledgeable ornithologist could explain the behavior I’ve described. But, as often happens when I’m working in my beloved sphere of horticulture, I see a spiritual analogy. The birds’ behavior reminds me of Peter’s attempt to walk on water, recounted in Matthew 14:25-31:
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (NIV Bible, emphasis mine)
As long as Peter kept his gaze firmly fixed on Jesus he was able to walk on the water. But when he shifted his focus to the storm, he was quickly overwhelmed by his situation.
Too often, when I’m confronted with changing circumstances or buffeted by winds of uncertainty, I become flustered. Like the thrasher, I begin to flail about, thwarting any possibility of finding the stability I seek. And before I know it, I’ve lost sight of the One who is my sure foundation. The One who never changes. The One who still speaks to his followers, saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
As I reflect on the disparate behavior of the woodpecker and the thrasher, may I be reminded to rest in the promises of the One who calms the storms.