Bird Lessons

One of the Bohemian waxwing flock, enjoying the dried winter plums. They didn't mind their "ornamental" status.
One of the Bohemian waxwing flock, enjoying the dried winter plums. They didn’t mind their “ornamental” status.

I adopted a Bohemian waxwing several years ago, a broken-winged champion I found in the alley. He lived for six months, and I’ve had a fondness for birds of that feather ever since.

Waxwings don’t visit regularly, but a flock found our backyard one sunny day recently. Twenty below zero, spring, three days old; snow still calf-deep and littered with twigs from our last big blow.

First, only a wren house sat in the ornamental plum tree outside my office window. A moment later, as though decorated by an invisible hand, the tree wore an entire flock of exquisite birds. Tawny, with black bandit masks, striking white wing bars and jaunty crests. The Bohemian waxwings had returned.

For several hours they came and went in almost perfect unison. Each time they landed, they set to work plucking wizened plum berries, chattering and trilling, their red wing spots and yellow tail feathers flashing like gems in the sun.

But on one of their departures, a flock member made a miscalculation and headed for the glass of my double garden doors. Just before colliding face-first, it managed a quick mid-flight turn and sideswiped the door.

I heard a thump, caught my breath, and watched as it veered off from the rest of the flock and flew directly to the willow at the bottom of the yard.

For a full half-hour, it perched there, winded and still. And behind it, the sky, blue as forget-me-nots.

I worried it would freeze. Starve. Fall over. I watched through the binoculars, but the waxwing rarely moved. Just sat and waited.

Waiting for strength to fly
Waiting for strength to fly

Every bird on the hills is mine, God says in scripture. Yes, that one, too. Hurting. Fluffed up against the cold. Watching friends came and go. Waiting for the right time to fly.

Finally, as though responding to an inner signal, God’s little bird hopped once or twice on that twig of refuge and spread its wings wide. Thrusting off the branch, it flew upward to rejoin the flock. Then it struck me: that Bohemian waxwing knows better than most Christians what to do when wounded.

Ever been sideswiped by life and tried to blunder through, only to keep making bad decisions? I have. Oddly, that seems easier than admitting I’m hurt, angry or puzzled. Withdrawing to a place of refuge? Letting life go on without me? Waiting for God to provide strength to fly again? Who has time for that?

Only the strong, according to 20th Century Bible scholar and preacher, G. Campbell Morgan. “Waiting for God needs strength rather than weakness. It is power to do nothing. It is the strength that holds strength in check. It is the strength that prevents the blundering activity which is entirely false and will make true activity impossible when the definite command comes.”

Bruised? Hurting? Pray for the strength to do nothing until God tells you to fly.


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