And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
A Pleasant Pastime
A decade or so ago, I discovered the joys of feeding the birds that frequent my wooded property. Cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, nut hatches, and titmice are year-round visitors. Other varieties stop by occasionally as they pass through en route to their final destinations.
I placed the feeders where I can see them from several vantage points in my kitchen, so the birds provide entertainment when I’m washing dishes or sitting at my table.
Over the years, I’ve observed a hierarchy in Birdville. The red-bellied woodpecker, one of the largest birds to visit the buffet, appears to be at the top of the pecking order. I’ve never seen him harass any of the other birds, but when he shows up, they move out of the way until he’s finished eating.
Occasionally, when the woodpecker isn’t around, a bird will barge in, scattering those already on the feeder, but, for the most part, they take turns, and meal times proceed in an orderly manner.
Trouble in Birdville
Imagine my dismay last weekend when a menacing mockingbird decided to keep everyone else away from the feeders. When I first saw it chasing the other birds, I thought, “Just wait until the woodpecker returns. He’ll restore order.”
But the woodpecker didn’t return that afternoon, and the mockingbird continued to harass every bird that attempted to get a seed or bit of suet. I decided I’d have to be the protector. I repeatedly got up from the table where I was trying to work on an article for our women’s ministry newsletter, opened the door to my deck, and shooed the belligerent bird away.
The mockingbird was determined. Not only was it keeping other birds from the feeders, but it was also chasing them in the woods, diving and swooping like a fighter plane. The futility of my efforts swallowed up the joy usually associated with feeding my feathered friends. Furthermore, it took at least twice as long to write the article as it would have had I not been policing the deck, adding fuel to the bubbling cauldron of emotions threatening to boil over.
Where oh where was the woodpecker? Surely he wasn’t afraid of the intruder!
When I came downstairs the following morning, the mockingbird had already assumed its post on the deck railing, ready to attack. Dismay and disappointment joined lingering anger from the day before, but mostly I felt my insufficiency. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make it all better.
I decided to place two feeders in the woods and two on the deck in hopes the mockingbird wouldn’t be able to guard all of them, and the other birds could get a few bites to eat. I consoled myself with the truth that even though I feel responsible for the birds on my property, they all belong to God. I prayed He would take care of them (Psalm 145:15-16).
The next day, while I was still upstairs, I heard a melodious blend of bird songs, chirps, and twitters. The woods were full of the music I’ve become accustomed to on spring mornings. Could it be that order had been restored?
I ventured downstairs and found the red-bellied woodpecker had returned. Ever since, birds of all sizes, from tiny Carolina wrens to big brown thrashers, have been taking turns at the feeders. Even the mockingbird, now minding its manners, has been stopping by. Ah, harmony in Birdville. What a relief!
The Real Issue
Do you ever overreact? I’ve learned when I respond with oversized emotions to a situation I may barely remember a month later, it’s usually due to an infusion of angst from an underlying event. Such was the case with the scenario I described above. That bubbling cauldron of jumbled emotions I felt due to my inability to fix the situation was fueled by sadness at not being able to make things better in cases with much higher stakes.
This time two years ago, my dear little mom was in constant pain from what we eventually learned was sciatica. Try as I might, I couldn’t get her the help she needed to alleviate the pain. She fell and broke her hip just hours before the appointment with the pain specialist and went to the hospital instead. The pain she endured for the final ten days of her life was well beyond my capability to heal, as were the fragility of her mind and emotions after surgery to repair her hip.
All I could do was pray, reassure, and sometimes sing as I tried to comfort her.
Likewise, I can’t restore the parts of my 92-year-old father’s mind that a stroke stole from him 17 months ago. He can’t keep the days of the week or time of day straight, and his facility for working crossword puzzles and devouring multi-hundred-page books are a thing of the past. I oversee his care and finances, and as one of his nurses says, I ensure he’s safe and loved.
Oh, how I wish I could do more, but I’m a finite being with finite abilities.
The One Who Can
I don’t like to see suffering or harm in any realm, much less when it comes to my beloved family and friends. I want to fix it, to make it all better. I expect all of God’s children feel that way to some extent. As we traverse this world marred by sin, knowing things aren’t the way God intended them to be, we long for things to be set right.
The bad news is we can’t fix it. But the very best news is that God can and will make it all better. Jesus defeated sin and death by taking our sins upon Himself, paying the debt we owed, and covering us with His righteousness. He is seated at the right hand of God, sovereign over all things and constraining evil (Hebrews 1:1-3). One day Jesus will return and restore harmony. When He does, nothing will kill or destroy on all His holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9). There will be no more pain, no broken hips or debilitating strokes, and no more tears of sorrow and frustration.
Until then, may we strive to care for those God has entrusted to us, remembering He is God and we are not. Everything belongs to Him, even those we most cherish, and we must trust Him for the outcomes.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for stepping over the line, forgetting my place, and trying to “help” You take care of everything. Please give me a clear understanding of my part, trusting You to work all things together for good in full assurance that Jesus’ return will usher in eternity full of peace and joy in Your presence.