In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd to “Look at the birds of the air. . . ” Around us all the time, they are so familiar that in the course of our daily comings and goings we might not notice the lessons they can teach us from their daily comings and goings. One of my favorite theologians, John Stott, knows this to be true. A life-long bird watcher, Stott wrote a very interesting book, The Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons from a Life-long Bird Watcher. And so, I’ve tried to be more mindful in observing the variety of birds that congregate in our back yard.
Last week, I was cutting our grass when I turned to navigate around a flower bed that sits on one of the back corners of our house. Over the roar of our mower, I started to hear some frantic squawking. In a moment, I noticed that the panicked chorus of noise was coming from three birds. . . two adult robins and fluffy baby. Junior was young enough to have been recently pushed out of the nest. But the adults. . . mom and dad, I assume. . . weren’t leaving Junior to himself to try to figure out how to survive and flourish in the world beyond the security of the nest. It was clear that the roar of my mower and the presence of a human being pushing a loud and spinning blade of death, was the cause for alarm. I moved away quickly but turned to watch how everything was going to play out.
As I processed what I was seeing I got to thinking about how much we can learn as parents when we “look at the birds of the air”. . . or in this case, a bird who was learning how to become a bird of the air. When faced with my mower, the little fella went into a panic. Incidentally, I had encountered him just a couple of days before when he was able to hop around but flying wasn’t an option. I had been sitting in the yard with Lisa, both of us quietly reading our books. “Do you hear that?” I asked. “Yes. What is that?”, Lisa replied. Upon further investigation I isolated the sound to our enclosed hose reel that sits against the back of the house. As I looked at the opening that surrounds the bottom of the hose reel, I could see bird feet scampering around. . . feet that couldn’t find a way out of the box. I quickly realized that it was a newly de-nested baby robin. How did I know? Two adult robins were going to a fro nearby, watching the trapped baby and noisily chirping instructions (I assume) to the trapped little one. When I lifted the box, Junior scampered away freely, with the older robins nearby.
By the time I was mowing the grass a few days later, the baby robin, now looking more like a gawky adolescent, was able to fly. However, even though he know how to fly, he had no idea where to fly. He got himself stuck on a window screen. After working himself loose from that predicament, he was up and down all over the place. . . always with mom and dad just a stone’s throw away. . . watching, chirping, surrounding, and guiding as Junior was getting his wings.
Over the last few days I’ve watching this winged trio continue the process. Each and every day, the little one becomes more confident, wise, and safe. Eventually, he’ll be on his own. Hopefully, he will have learned the lessons passed on from his parents about functioning well as a full-grown robin.
What a lesson-filled metaphor God has given us in what it was I witnessed. Our children are a gift to steward. Our role is to train them to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. We provide the safety of a nest. . . and when the time comes, we push them out to launch. But we don’t leave them to themselves. Our work is not done. We follow, and watch, and lead, and intervene to protect them from harm and to provide for their well-being.
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Our world is full of dangers that could and would swallow up our kids. . . physical dangers, emotional dangers, relational dangers, and spiritual dangers. Our role is to nurture and guide them. We encourage them to pursue the narrow road that leads to life. We warn and intervene when they start to wander. . . and they will. . . onto the wide road that leads to destruction.
From the day you find out you are going to have a child, to the day when that child finally moves away and is on their own, parenting to the Glory of God is to be priority #1. Whatever it takes. Paul Tripp offers this helpful reminder: “Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.”
Parents, look at the birds of the air.