The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
On the morning of the equinox, I sent my twins outdoors to gather leaves for our botany study. They got as far as the French doors that lead to the patio and stopped cold. “Mama!” one cried. “Look!”
I looked. Into the laurel hedge in our backyard were flying dozens of tiny birds. Several kinds of chickadees as well as golden-crowned kinglets (the smallest of our Northwest birds, a mere three inches long) were flitting by the dozen in and out of the laurel and the adjacent cedar tree. We watched them swoop in and land, swoop out and circle in the air above the laurel, swoop back in and land again, sometimes in pairs or triads, sometimes in large groups, sometimes solo. We listened to them cheep and chitter and dee-dee-dee. Botany was forgotten in the wonder of bird flight and bird song.
Later that afternoon, as I was driving to the train station to pick up my husband, the honking of a flock of Canadian geese penetrated the closed windows of my car. I looked up to see a score or more of wing-flapping silhouettes in V-formation, black against the blue sky.
Later still, as I was washing the dinner dishes, a flash of black caught the tail of my eye and I looked out my kitchen window in time to see a pileated woodpecker alight on the stump of a Douglas fir in the backyard. The patch of bright red on his head shone like a ten-carat ruby. “Oh, look!” I cried to my husband and kids, and they did—in time to see a second pileated woodpecker swoop across the yard and alight on the fir. I had never seen a pair of them together before. I stood with soapy, dripping hands beside the sink and drank those gorgeous birds in.
I still can’t quite believe all three of those bird-sightings happened on the same day, without my doing anything except being where I was and happening to look up at the right moment.
Jesus tells us to consider the birds. They neither labor nor spin, yet even Solomon in all his splendor did not have a crown as gorgeous as my pileated woodpeckers’ or as my tiny kinglets with their bright yellow head stripe.
As we continue to flit or trudge through Ordinary Time, this longest season of the church year, it is easy to forget to consider the birds, or the lilies, or the ordinary splendor of an ordinary day. The days march along, and sometimes we keep up with them and sometimes they run us over. Regardless, God is with us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
We may be small as a kinglet, but we cannot fall to the ground—or wing up to the skies—apart from our Father. God sees us and rejoices over us with gladness. I confess I have a long history of rebelling against my smallness. I don’t want to be a kinglet, thank you, I want to be an eagle, majestic and soaring—and visible from a long way away. From the time I was 11, I wanted to do great things for God. I was going to be an overseas worker to Russia, braving the Iron Curtain to spread the love of Jesus. But honestly, I was at least as interested in being a hero—or rather, in being seen and known as a hero—as I was in spreading the Good News. Chances are, if I’d actually gone to Russia, it wouldn’t have been as glamorous as I imagined. I’d have had to do mundane things like laundry and dishes and grocery shopping—the very things I’m doing now.
Truth is, I would have chafed at that. Just as I have chafed at staying home and raising my kids. This work I do is so…small, so ordinary. So unimportant.
We humans are silly creatures, running after numbers and fame and wealth like lemmings off a cliff. But size does not determine value. Visibility does not determine value. Cost does not determine value. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? They are small. They are ubiquitous and therefore invisible. They are inexpensive. And yet—“not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father.” God likes small, invisible places. He likes small, invisible people. He works in small, invisible ways, like yeast in dough. Small, yes. Ordinary, sure. Unimportant? No way. How else would the dough get leavened?
The older I get the more fully I realize that the most important things I do are the least visible. I can’t tell you how many hymns I’ve sung to my kids as they lay in bed at night waiting for sleep to come, or how many stories I’ve read them over the years. Too many to count. Only my children hear me singing those hymns (and that’s a good thing, trust me!) or reading those stories. For 8 billion people on the planet, those stories and songs are invisible and inaudible. But those stories and songs are far more important than anything I will ever write, even if 8 billion people read my essay, because they are the layers upon layers of love on which my children’s lives are built.
We still have two more months of Ordinary Time before the church year circles to a close. Maybe we could spend it considering the birds:
“They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father….Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows.”
We may be small as a kinglet, but God’s eye is on us. We go nowhere, do nothing apart from our Father. The small work we do, faithfully, day in and day out, simply because it needs to be done and “happens” to fall onto our paths or into our laps—it is for this ordinary work that God will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” (If you let God quiet you with His love, you might well hear Him whispering those words to you even now.)
Like the kinglet, we wear a crown, given us by our Father who calls us beloved, who adopts us into His family as co-heirs with Christ, who exults over us, small as we are, with loud singing.
This is Amy :). Loved the reminder of the book we read last fall!
Next week we start