It has been a season where I have been tasting paradox so tangibly. Feeling displaced and yet also rooted more deeply in Christ. Being shaken in my faith just to see how, in Christ, I am always standing in grace. Being really limited by circumstances but also freed up to have margin for the things that matter most. Having my heart so tender yet also discovering the strength of Christ. Grieving for the Church yet tasting its unwavering hope. Feeling lost and confused in one level, and yet so wisely guided by our Shepherd on another.
As I have been living in this dance of loss and gain, joy and sorrow, grief and hope, the Lord has kept my attention on…birds. Yes, friend. On birds! It started last summer, really. I could almost hear him saying, “Pay attention to the birds.”
On every early morning run, and when I watched our kids play in the playground at the park, on 24 glorious hours away by myself, and when I went on walks by the lake, birds kept my attention.
There was one bird, in particular, that made me literally laugh out loud. It loved to stand under a fountain in a man-made lake for hours, getting terribly wet. I would walk past it back and forth during a conference, and no matter what time of day, I would find the bird just sitting there, getting a shower. It felt like a joke between me and God.
And I kept asking him, “What do you want me to see? What are you teaching me?” My mind went to passages like Matthew 6: 26, about how my Heavenly Father cares for the birds, and how that means he is caring for me too. But I think he wanted me to see more.
One day, as I sat outside, and watched how playfully they flew, and as I listened to them sing, I was struck by how birds were just being birds. In all their “birdiness”, they dug for worms, sang, danced in flight, followed their instinct, stayed in flocks, and hunted for food.
They glorified God and made me glad with their beauty and their song (and their love for showers) but they were not really performing for me or anyone else. They were just doing what they were made for.
It made me think about how I live. And how stuck I can get on wanting to be productive. And while productivity is not a bad thing, it is not an end in itself. Our Father doesn’t want us stuck in performance and goal-achieving mode because when setting and achieving goals is what drives us, we easily miss our purpose.
A few months ago a friend asked my husband and I, “what if the chief end of man is to be loved by God as Father? What if that is how we glorify God? Knowing all that God is for us in Christ and enjoying that manner of love?” (1 John 3:1) I think my friend is on to something.
Think about Christ for a minute. He really delighted in doing God’s will (Psalm 40: 8). But where did that delight come from? His Father’s love and delight in him. The gospels record 2 instances where the Father proclaimed his love for the son. Right before Christ begun his ministry, before he had accomplished anything publicly – the father publicly declared his approval, commitment, and love for the Son (Matthew 3:17). And then at the mount of transfiguration, as the disciples watched Jesus with both Moses and Elijah (representing the law and the prophets), the Father affirmed his love for the Son and charged them to listen to his beloved Son (Matthew 17: 5). In the gospel of John, if you listen carefully to Jesus’ words, he repeats often how much the Father loves him – it was the guiding conviction of his life.
Having that deep belief in the Father’s love for him, how did Jesus live? He embraced his humanity and did what his Father gave him all authority to do: walked on dusty roads, ate bread, laughed with his friends, touched the sick, slept on a boat, was hungry, taught his disciples, rebuked the pharisees, carried a heavy cross, cried bloody tears, and finally entrusted his spirit in the Father’s hands. Jesus lived an incredibly earthly, human life because he had a perspective on it that went beyond what human eyes could see. And friend – in his oneness with us – Jesus has given us that same deep belief. It is the Spirit’s ministry to us to feed that conviction – that our Abba Father is for us.
Knowing our Father’s delight in us is what begets our delight in him. And it is that life – the believing, delighting life – that truly glorifies him. It is that belief in his goodness and personal love for us that shows to the world and those in unseen places the beauty of his holiness. It is only that belief that enables us to delight in his purpose for our lives season after season.
So back to the birds. They are so well cared for by God and because of that, they live out their birdiness every day….giving glory to their Creator.
What about you and I, friend? We are of far more value than the birds. We, unlike them, know our Father cares for us. This frees us up to be humans – embodied, limited, deeply flawed and terribly needy in beautifully “gospelly” ways. We are dusty yet tethered to unseen, glorious places because of Christ (Hebrews 6: 19-20).
And so we can live out our “humannes” just like the birds live out their “birdiness” and be confident we are showing the glory of our Father to the world around us. We are spreading his joy in all our human activities – baking bread, playing piano, going on nature walks with our kids, laughing at their jokes, picking up dirty socks, sorting laundry, reading a poem, drinking tea, getting interrupted, gazing at the sunset – when we do it all as beloved children.
So this is my encouragement to you (and to myself) – by faith in Christ, receive your Father’s delight and care. Open your hands to take hold of his unstoppable love for you in Jesus. The love that is holding you fast. He cares for all you are, not just your to-do list.
And then, embraced by Him, embrace your humanity – be creative, limited, needy, funny, ridiculous. Forgive, ask for forgiveness, laugh, mourn, rest, repent, write thank-you cards, say no to some things and yes to others, lament, ponder, sing. Live in the tension of very real loss and very real hope. Do those things that God wired YOU to do and that when you do them, you feel his deep joy welling up inside and overflowing.
By looking at the birds, I think the Lord was teaching me to enjoy being a wildly loved human who lives in Jesus and through him. Tethered to him and to the truer reality he bought for me with his life, death, resurrection, I can face my neediness with full honesty and still dance.