Dying bird

On my way to a Christian bookstore in an outdoor shopping center, I nearly stepped on a bird on the outside rug in the doorway.  Since I have bad posture, I often look down when I walk, and I saw the bird before stepping on him.

Though he was alive, it was just barely.  He was lying on the ground heaving, a wide-eyed look of confusion in the eye I could see.  His body was contorted.  He was truly miserable.

I was afraid he was going to get stepped on in the doorway, but I didn’t want to move him.  I was afraid he would die in my hand.  One of the workers came with a plastic bag and moved him to the mulched bush area.  I wished I’d had Ben with me.  I’d have had him kill the bird and put it out of its terror.

It was a little bird.  A plain colored bird.  I don’t know what had happened to him.  He must have had one kind of sickness or another.  His condition was only desperate from his standpoint.  From my standpoint, his fate was sealed.  I knew there was nothing any passers-by could do for him to make him all better.  From his viewpoint, he was struggling.  From my viewpoint, he was doomed to die.

In more similarity that we would like to admit, you and I are like that bird.  Our sin nature distorts us, and from the moment of conception we are already poisoned with sin’s doom.  We heave from sin our whole lives and, whether we realize it or not, we lie at God’s doorstep, helpless should He walk out and trample us.

People who truly glimpse their sin nature are sometimes led to suicidal thoughts, wanting to put themselves out of their own misery.  But we cannot put to death the soul, and therein lies the pain and the eternality of sin.  We are inflicted with an illness that does not age when we age; we are injured by a wound that never stops scarring us.  We are doomed to sin; to keep sinning; it is all we can do.

Like that little bird I saw, most of us don’t realize or don’t accept how serious the situation is.  We think if we rest awhile in the pleasures of this world, that we may revive.  If we improve family relationships, build more friendships, enlarge our fan club, or get that promotion at work we’ve been wanting . . that the plight of our soul will somehow be delayed, or improved, or that at least we’ll be distracted from it.  Like that little bird, we are too weak-minded to understand what is truly happening to us, too gullible to Satan’s lies to believe our fate, and too self-important to stop trying.

God reveals something fascinating about Himself in Scripture, something that many of us have heard so many times that we have forgotten to look at it for what it is.  He tells us this:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 10:29, ESV)

Here Jesus teaches us:

  • God keeps up with two-for-a-penny sparrows.
  • God wants to be identified as our Father.

Just as the bird I saw that day did not escape the notice of God—in fact, God was aware of that bird lying on the mat outside the bookstore long before I approached—we do not escape the notice of God, either.  And because of who He is, He wants us to have fellowship with Him.  As He sees when even the sparrow—a bird abundant and nearly worthless in Jesus’ day—took its last breath, so He sees the state of death that sin has left us in.

Rather than passively watch, He is active.  With the sparrow, He actively chooses when to give it its last breath.

Years ago, many people used to believe “god” had created the earth with something rather like a wind-up mechanism, wound it up, and let it go.  Certainly God could have created sparrows, let them loose, and then gone off to do something else, or even passively watched.

But don’t you find it fascinating that He does not use what we call “natural processes” to determine when even a common bird dies?  He does not leave it up to chance, survival of the fittest, or even the breaking down of the bird’s body.  No, He actively chooses when that bird will take its last breath.

In the same way—though it may not be comfortable to think about—God actively chooses when we will take our last breaths.  The date of our deaths does not come as a surprise.

This knowledge alone doesn’t come too much further than one of the stories of ancient Greek mythology.   According to the mythology, there were deities assigned to the “cutting of the thread” of life.  Then, and only then, did a person die.

This knowledge alone is not comforting.  That God has assigned our deaths isn’t really anything to draw us to Him, other than that we might want to appease Him so that He gives us a longer lifespan, like the ancient Greeks tried to do with their gods.

But the second knowledge was said by Jesus to draw us to Him: He not only chooses when we receive our last breath from His hand, He also intervenes with Fatherhood.

To believe an omniscient God can control your living and dying is almost a given.

To believe an omniscient God wants to be your Father is another story.

We are like the bird fallen on a sidewalk, waiting to be trampled on.  But that’s not where our story ends.  We are remembered by God, despite our sin, and He offers each one of forgiveness and priceless worth through the sacrifice of His Son.  He gives us the right to call Him Father, and He does so out of the love of who He is.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 10:29, ESV)

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