I stood there, frozen, starring at the broadcast. I had turned on the 5 o’clock news and I stood in the middle of my living room unable to take my eyes off the television screen.
Baby birds. Tiny, newborn, baby birds had fallen from the safety of their mother’s nest into a wire net high above the city subway. The travelers below were unable to help as the net was too high. The baby birds, covered in new feathers struggled for hours in the hot sun without the food their mother could provide. No one came to their rescue. Even the mama bird was unable to pull them out of the clutches of the wire, their little heads writhing as they struggled for release. The news showed every detail which seemed to go on for several minutes, but captured hours of what had happened that day. They interviewed people below who shared anger the metro had installed the netting. Others said they wanted to climb up and save the birds, but could not figure out how to reach them. Finally, at the end, the broadcaster said all 3 baby birds died before metro rail engineers could post a ladder to free them.
It has been a couple of weeks and still the ache in my gut remains as I picture those helpless birds. I have been angry and even sick to my stomach at the thought of something so little, so precious, suffering. Even though they were only birds, my heart still aches. It aches because no one could reach in and stop their suffering, even though many wanted to, intended to. There are so many things I wish I could fix, suffering I wish I could end. But I am not able. And the ache continues.
Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?”
If we are FAR MORE VALUABLE than the birds, what does that MEAN? If the birds matter to God…If not a single sparrow falls from the sky without His notice, than what does that mean about us?
It means we matter. It means the God of our Universe aches with a deeper ache than we do because of our suffering. In my perfect world, there would be no suffering, no tears, just 30-minute sitcoms where problems are solved and people move on and life is peachy. But, that is so NOT reality. Life hurts. We suffer. We cry out with an aching heart to the God Who Hears.
This morning at church, I heard the most amazing message about tears. The teacher taught us that God holds our tears in a bottle, He redeems through tears, we are still, prior to Heaven in a place of tears as we live life here on earth. My soul literally wanted to scream, “YES! YES! YES!” as he spoke. I agree whole heartily that it is often necessary to let ourselves feel the pain, endure the suffering, rather than, as he said, “Try to get over it.” His final word was, “The goal is not to ‘get over it’, but rather to rest in the arms of Jesus,” Who loves us deeply, Who sees our value, Who thinks we are precious and Who cries when we cry.
Thinking back to the baby birds, another spiritual truth comes to mind: We are helpless. Despite our education, social status, beauty, accomplishments, wealth, family, friends. In reality, we are helpless. Just like those baby birds, even these things cannot help us when suffering comes. There is only ONE Who can and will rescue. Only One Who has no limitations of time, no restrictions of ability, no limit of resources. Only Jesus Christ is able to do the impossible when hope is gone and death feels eminent.
I have been there, caged in by another kind of net, trapped by emotions so powerful they felt like a tsunami within my very soul, able to drown me. And I was afraid. I still am some days- to let them come, to be willing to feel them, to cry the tears that fill my heart, to cry out to My Shepherd and let Him hold me in the quiet hours.
“Oh Lord, apart from you I am nothing! Apart from you I can do nothing! I am like the baby bird, wrestling to be set free. Be still my soul. Rest. With You I can do all things. For You are my strength. You are the One Who sets the captive free. You are my Hero,Who reaches out, reaches down to little, seemingly insignificant me, and says, “I’ve got this. You are more valuable. I see you. I hear your tears.”
Like the birds of the air, I want to soar! Jesus continues to help me fly higher and higher, but with each lift, there comes pain, suffering and times of testing. And, I surrender again and again because I have tasted of His goodness and I never want to be tethered again to my past sins and patterns of behavior. I want to fly, free as a bird!
This morning I prayed, “Lord, will you teach me about your Father’s heart for me?”….. I was listening to one of my favorite local pastors on the radio. He was teaching about “waiting”, which made me internally chuckle as I just wrote about that in my prior note. He was reading from the book of John, in the Bible, where Mary and Martha called for Jesus’ help because their brother Lazareth was “sick unto death”. The pastor described how Jesus heard the news and stayed where He was for 2 more days (in order to glorify God). There was a description of how Martha met Jesus and told Him if He had come sooner, her brother would not be dead. But, Mary did not go out to meet Jesus. Her grief was great. I suspect she was full of many questions too. “Why did He wait?” ” Why would He not come when I needed Him?”
Last night I watched the movie, Pursuit of Happiness, with Will Smith and his actual, real life son. As I was thinking about the story in John, I remembered the relationship between the father and son. If you have seen the movie, you will remember how the mother leaves the family in the middle of the night, without even saying goodbye to her boy. Then, the father and son have to leave their familiar surroundings of home and go to a hotel. Later they are out of money and sleep in a subway restroom. Then, they are in a homeless shelter. The movie is NOT about happiness, just for the record. There is absolutely NOTHING happy about this movie. But, I did come away with some Biblical truths regarding the relationship on-screen and how it relates to my relationship with Jesus.
Several times in the movie, the boy cries out loudly, “DAD! Where are we going???? Dad! Where are we going?”
I feel like that sometimes. The thing I like about this question is it contains the word WE. The Lord promises to never leave us or forsake us. No matter where I am, He is always there too. WE go together.
In response, the father often asked the son, “Do you trust me?” “Do you trust me?” The son exclaims he does. He had no certainty for his future, but he knew his Dad. He knew he loved him. He knew he took care of him. He trusted him. Even though his own mother had abandoned him, he saw the heart of his Dad.
I think this is the Father Heart of God. He says the same thing to me. “Candace, do you trust me?” And I have to say, no matter how hard my circumstances are, no matter if I am sick, lacking money, wondering about the future, not understanding so many things… I do. I trust Him. He has always been with me. He has always provided for me. He has always loved me.
My favorite scene in the movie is when both Will Smith’s character and his son are in another homeless shelter. They have really hit bottom. There is no immediate help in sight. And then, as he is tucking the son into bed, the little boy reaches up and puts his hands on his father’s face. He looks at him and says, “You’re a good Papa.” I love that. He knew his Dad. He remembered the GOOD.
I think, on this day, no matter what our circumstances are, we can look up and say the same thing, “You’re a good Papa”.
Often the word PATIENCE in the Bible is translated “long-suffering”. I have been thinking much about this and the meaning of it. Mostly I have been thinking about 1st Corinthians 13, which most people know as the LOVE chapter of the Bible. It says, “Love is patient”. It is the first sentence in a group of sentences that goes on to describe the amazing qualities of godly LOVE.
It causes me to think of Jesus. I picture Him on the cross, hanging there, wounded, yet full of LOVE, suffering long. It makes me thinks of His grace and how He pursued my rebellious heart to show me His intense, jealous LOVE for me. It reminds me, how, when I sin and grieve Him, He is PATIENT, long-suffering with me until I am willing to let go and trust Him again.
Imagine if all LOVE was willing to suffer long….. How would that change marriages? Families? Friendships?
Apart from Christ it is impossible to truly understand that kind of PATIENT LOVE. For it is not until WE have been LOVED like that, that we can offer it to others. And often, those we are called to LOVE, certainly cause us to suffer. Behind the concept of long-suffering, is a commitment. It is a willingness to stay. It is a promise, a surrender of self. Suffering long in loving CHOOSES to pursue the person that may be acting very unloving and…well, hence the suffering comes. Why would we WANT to do such a thing? Why CHOOSE to LOVE, suffer long, with someone that causes us pain. Why LOVE when it hurts?
And again, I think of the cross. In the world, so many evil things are acted out upon others, venomous words spoken out loud, wounds and hurts created from repeated acts of selfishness. And then, there is Jesus Christ. He is God, was God and yet, became human. He never thought, nor acted out any evil. No unkind words were spoken. No sin existed in Him. He was without any darkness, at all.
Yet, He chose to LOVE….me, us, all men, every person. He chose to SUFFER LONG in our place so that we might know His LOVE. Isn’t that amazing? Can you imagine choosing that? Being willing to say, “Although I am perfect and have done nothing wrong in the sight of God the Father, I want to take on the consequences of YOUR evil, SO that I can LOVE you and you can LOVE ME and LOVE others.
It was this very concept that changed my heart at age 25. The thought of a Holy God, choosing to die on a cross for me, when there was “no darkness in Him AT ALL” (1st John Ch. 1) completely blew my mind! Knowing that Jesus Christ was LOVE and had already been LONG-SUFFERING in His LOVE for me, caused me to want to know the height and depth and breath and length of this very God. His LOVE has been unlike anything I have ever known before. He has LOVED me and LOVED me and LOVED me. No matter what, He stays. He is committed. He has promised He would. He will never leave me. He will SUFFER LONG in His LOVE for me. In return, I pray He will enable me to LOVE in this same way. I ask that He will give me a heart that is willing to STAY, to COMMIT, to PROMISE my LOVE to those around me.
And so…LOVE IS PATIENT.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139