Sunday, September 15, 2013

Storytelling and sparrows


Our Saturday morning was messy, in all the ways it could be. By 10 a.m., I wanted to go back to bed and start over. But knowing we had an engagement at 11 pushed me up out of my pajamas and into three outfits before I decided on one for the cloudy day outdoors. Yet even the indoors was cloudy; nothing was horrible and nothing was great. Everybody and everything was merely fine, and grey.

It was cloudy in my head too; I noticed God's promises seemed far off and fuzzy. I didn't have my usual joy and wondered if spiritual lions were on the prowl.

But the day went on, as it does, uncaring that I wish it would just stop for a while and let me get my footing. It was the down escalator and I was the little girl who wasn't quite sure when to step on.

At our engagement, I smiled and tried my hardest to be sociable and interested. But really I felt awkward and out of place. I'm getting used to feeling unknown since our move, but that doesn't make it any less difficult. After talking to my closest friend for 90 minutes the other night, it struck me how refreshing it was to converse with someone who really knew me. I had forgotten what a luxury that is. Deep and long-term friendship is such a gift.

So as we drove home, I felt a little relieved to be back in my own car with my family. We chatted about unmemorable things. Just before our driveway, I noticed a group of tiny sparrows zipping quickly in disorganized loops around our next door neighbor's house. They were scatter-brained and silly and strikingly small. But something went wrong. In the blink of an eye, I watched one swoop over to our house and smack hard into the window nearest our front door. The sparrow dropped like a rock to the wooden seat of our bench a few feet below.

At the same moment, we pulled into our driveway. I made an urgent, wordless sound, flung the car door open and ran to the tiny bird. His chest was rapidly heaving, though he lay on the wood otherwise motionless. His tiny head was dipping between the slats and he had no strength to lift it. All the reasonable thoughts went through my head: birds have diseases, they carry sickness, he'll fly away when he's able....but I couldn't walk away. He was so helpless and perhaps near death.

When I ever so gingerly scooped him into my palm, I noticed that if I were to close my fingers, he'd be almost totally hidden. I was a little breathless; I had never held a tiny bird in my hand before. I wanted to think he was beautiful, but he was so ordinary with all plain brown feathers. What struck me, however, was that though he tried, he couldn't keep his eyes open or his head held straight up. It was like he was falling asleep. I tried to calm him down with quiet and kind whispers. I guess I believed he might just trust me, that I wasn't trying to hurt him, that he needn't be afraid.

When I lowered him down over the forgiving grass in case he tried to move and fell, the scene went vivid in my heart. I know too much about sparrows and the Bible and God for it not to, I guess. Or He was just speaking so loudly and clearly. It was suddenly the most obvious thing in the whole world that I was the sparrow. I even scoffed a little inside, like when you've heard the same unfunny joke repeated five times by your preschooler. I tried to brush away the ridiculously obvious metaphor. But it's clung to me all day.

We are all the sparrows. We get knocked down and fuzzy-headed. We'd rather just go back to bed, shut our eyes. But Jesus scoops us up, holds us gently in His palm. So patient. Whispering kindness.

I would have sat there all day on the front lawn, holding my little sparrow until he either recovered or died. I would have put all else aside for the helpless thing. It reminds me that no one outlasts Jesus' patience. It's really unbelievable when I consider how patient He is. He knows how much sickness we carry, how much disease is in our hearts. It doesn't stop Him from wrapping us in His safe and capable hands. His compassion is too great for me to understand. His kindness doesn't ever end. And we are such ordinary, unlovely creatures, so strikingly small.

But His eye is on the sparrow. Every single one. Especially the knocked out ones who can't even find the strength to raise their heads.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:25-27

Five or ten minutes passed, and my sparrow slowly improved. First, he managed to open his round black eyes and keep them open. Next he held his head up again, and eventually turned it, looked into my eyes and didn't seem afraid. I was surprised that he didn't struggle or panic when he started to come to. He was content to rest inside my fingers that wrapped him snugly. The kids got him a shallow plate with a bit of water on it, and when I felt sure he was stronger, I set him down onto it. He tested his wings, tentatively fluttering. And in another blink, he flew away in low scooping arcs between the two houses across the street.

What a blessing it was to have this little friend interrupt my day. It was sort of surreal, particularly because of the metaphor perfectly unfolding in living color before my eyes. And it was sort of strange to remember that God is at work telling beautiful stories through surprising characters. I mean, the sparrow rested in my hand, regained his strength, and did what he was designed to do as soon as I released him. He flew.

I was not so clouded yesterday to miss the meaning of this short story in which the Lord involved me. When my chest is rapidly heaving, when I can hardly get enough air and can't lift my head, I have only to remember that I'm in my Lord's gentle palm. He is in no hurry for me to get up and heal and take flight again. He waits, His eye never leaving me. The one difference is that as He stares at me, He notices all the ways I'm lovely, He feels proud of His creation and knows I am in no way ordinary. He whispers value and love and purpose back into my deflated spirit.

And when I'm stronger, He opens His fingers and silently frees me to do exactly what I was designed to do.



  1. This is a great reminder that we often dismiss because, as you mentioned, it's been expressed so much that it can seem trite. But its actually huge! I write my little girl letters and I sign every one with: "You're worth more than a million canaries! Love, Mommy" That's from The Message version of Luke 12:6-7 and I just think it's great. By itself, it's a weird little, funny statement, that makes you go, "What?" But as she grows up I want her to know that not just to mom, but to God, she is of immeasurable worth!

  2. It reminds me of the old hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow. And I know he watches me.

    He sees us.

    He's moved by us.

    He stoops down to meet us.

    And he loves us without reservation.

    He is so good!

  3. Les, this is so beautiful.
    thank you SO much for sharing this Truth and love that God had just for you.
    He is so kind to us.