(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)
Rogers and Hammerstein, the famous composers of the old time musical, Oklahoma!, immortalized the words, “and watch a hawk making lazy circles in the sky.” Sitting at my table outside I happened to look up into the blue above me and saw just that. Of course, it could have been a turkey vulture, a little challenging for me to tell at that distance, and naturally it wouldn’t have quite the same poetic ring to it as in the song. Regardless, the beauty of it was mesmerizing. This bird was expressing part of her innate wiring, and doing it with seemingly effortlessness and grace.
The other interesting observation in this scenario was that the cloud movement was indicating the wind was decidedly out of the northwest. The bird, however, was completely unhampered by the direction or the velocity of the airflow, and in fact, when she was apparently done with that particular circumference, commenced heading into a direct headwind!
Now, granted, I’m a Purdue Boilermaker, but decidedly not from their renown aeronautical engineering department. Even so, I seem to know that this bird’s impressive flight pattern had something intrinsically to do with the set of her wings, rather than merely the direction and strength of the air current. She has no control over the wind, but full control of her feathers. She understands and has mastered how to work with the wind, or better, to make the wind work for her. It is her nature to do so. And unlike us humans, she doesn’t even know how to complain if the wind seems to be going the wrong way, or how to whine if the wind seems too strong.
We humans, however, are of a higher order. We are well versed and abundantly proficient in the art of complaining and whining. And, unfortunately, it is not even an acquired art—it has been hard-wired into our code since, well…since we left the first Garden. Our original two parents somehow couldn’t see fit to work within God’s set perimeter, even though back then there weren’t even ten commandments, only one: don’t eat from that tree, just that one, only one. All the plethora of foliage and fruit were available and in abundance and could be enjoyed without restraint, but just not that one. And we all know the rest. (Not that I could have done any better. I probably would have built a tree house up inside of it and invited my husband in for afternoon tea with forbidden-fruit turnovers.)
There’s just something about wanting what we are not supposed to have. Or are warned against. Or belongs to someone else. Or are supposed to wait for in the future. And we have a penchant for whining when we can’t get it…now. Consider:
- That certain house, or car, or job
- Or maybe retirement!
- Children, or grandchildren,
- Or maybe getting the children out of the house!
- Social reputation, positions and status
- Or maybe solitude and quiet!
- Friends and relationships, or even marriage,
- Or a better, more satisfying, more stable marriage!
According to that same perspective, we complain when the “wind” of our expectations blows in a way that appears contrary to our desires:
- Economic recession and financial loss
- Health issues, both personal and with our loved ones
- Unexpected bills and other un-planned-for responsibilities (children, aging parents, to name a few)
- Even the so-called “Acts of God” (what a bum rap THAT is!) that leave untold pain and destruction in their wake.
The lists of things we choose to be discontent about are as long as they are differently perceived by each person. And just when we think we may have conquered one, there are plenty more in the queue waiting to pop up on our emotional screen. Despite this challenge, God calls us to contentedness, and promises that such a discipline brings great gain. (1) Linda Dillow, in her wonderful book entitled Be Still My Anxious Heart, writes about acquiring this skill of contentedness in all areas of life, such as employment, relationships, even in our own physical uniqueness. It takes time, and it takes effort to surrender our “wannabes” to God’s, but both the time and the effort are well worth the end product of contentedness.
However, lest we misunderstand, contentedness and surrender are not equal to resignation. True heart surrender to our heavenly Father’s plan and purpose—however strange and nonconforming it may be to our own—brings a peace that He really has everything under control, things are progressing according to His design, and since I don’t have to figure it all out (I’ve tried, and it’s painful), I can trust Him to tell me where to step next. Resignation, on the other hand, is giving up. Quitting. Taking my ball and going home. Instead of peace, I open myself up to bitterness, jealousy, and unforgiveness. And these guys are very, very dangerous playmates indeed. They tend to bring more unwanted guests into our lives, and sometimes we might not even be aware of them! (2)
One of these all too familiar hangers-on is stress. My husband tells me that stress is caused by unmet expectations. And everything in our modern psychology tells us that we need to decrease our stress. Logically, then, it would seem to follow that we need to modify our expectations, and learn to use our emotional and mental energy to harness the unexpected, the disappointing, the uncomfortable and downright painful things that life occasions for us. Thankfully, we have the very best Teacher to help us do just that. God’s Holy Spirit residing in each believing Christian is available for immediate access. (3) It is in learning to listen for His voice that we can release ourselves from the grip of gripe and the power of self-pity.
In this we place life’s uncontrol-ables, all of them and without reservation, into the capable hands of the One Who controls both the direction and the velocity of the winds of life. For in truth, only He can teach us to spread our wings… and fly. (4)
- 1 Timothy 6:6
- James 3:16
- Ephesians 3:16; John 14:26
- Isaiah 41:10