If you’re my Facebook friend, you may have noticed my manic post Sunday morning, how our little South Carolina split-level became Wild Kingdom, minus Marlin Perkins, until Todd saved the day. But you haven’t heard the rest of the story. May I share?
The day had started bright with snow. I’d changed out of my sweatpants into church clothes, taking my time, since Sunday school was cancelled on account of the icy roads. I’d finished my cup of coffee and standing at the kitchen window before we left for a moment to admire how nice the yard looked with the snow over the crabgrass. That’s when I heard the thump of the cat door closing and then a terrible screeching, as if a bird soprano was doing her best rendition of the theme from Psycho.
The next few sentences are a bit humiliating, but oh well. Jack the cat rounded the corner of the kitchen with a lovely lady cardinal in his mouth, so I did what came naturally, which for me means commencing my own screeching and flitting and running. Jack interpreted this as cries of joy at his fabulous present and began following me, screeching bird in mouth, which caused me to scream louder and wave my arms more and hop on things and yell for my husband.
My 24 year old son came first to my aid, and responded by pointing at Jack and saying Wow! and Oh! which was not at all helpful and somewhat concerning since he’s an EMT and med student. (Is that what he’ll say in the ER?) Apparently my eighteen year old was on the computer and couldn’t be bothered. The next thing I knew, Jack dropped the bird and the cardinal started darting around my head like planes around King Kong. This was not calming. By the time Todd made it downstairs, the bird lit on the floor for a moment (poor exhausted thing,) Jack caught it again and then dropped it but held it hostage, a paw on its tail feathers. Todd reached down, swooped it up, and held it in his hands.
“You should feel her little heart racing,” he said.
“That’s okay,” I said, and opened the door. Todd lifted his hands and she flew off to one of our crepe myrtles, where she sang a song that I’m pretty sure included bird profanity.
So I got my coat and purse, posted on Facebook (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in situations like this?) and went to church, where someone asked me “How are you?” and I smiled and said that I was fine, thank you. People don’t generally want to hear long bird stories when they ask this question.
I tried to concentrate as I settled into my pew with the acolytes, but I kept thinking of the bird, making sappy comparisons between God’s care for sparrows and us and my husband’s rescue of the bird (Don’t get a big head, husband. I do not think you’re God.) Jack became the evil in the world (sorry, Jack) and how unrelenting and senseless it is. Yes, I know. It’s overly simple and silly and comic book-ish.
But then my inner conversation quieted and I watched and listened and sang. And what I heard was that God could have chosen to bring us closer to God’s self (to save us, is what some might say) by any means God wanted, but God chose for us to hear Christ’s story in community- not through billboards or loudspeakers that span the sky or messages God beams into our heads and hearts, but in community. The gospel comes to us best in relationship, in friendship with other people who are trying to live it out, however imperfectly.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,[a]
a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
God holds us and keeps us, but not just for a relationship with each of us. God calls us to be community to each other, to open each other’s blind eyes, to free each other from darkness- to feed each other when one is hungry, to welcome the stranger, take care of the vulnerable and oppressed.
It sounds sappy- and it is sappy- but the bird in my house reminds me that I’m not just called to believe. I’m called to get up out of my seat (or down off the chair) and do something. Not just to point and say Wow! and Oh! and How Terrible! (Sorry, Ben!) But to actually work for God’s kingdom on earth, not wait for it in heaven.
I’m still figuring out what this means for me. Maybe it’s a new resolution for 2017. Whenever I want to say “How terrible! That’s awful!” I’m going to find something to do about whatever it is, something I can do that week, however small. Lately I’ve been saying that a lot, so this might be too much to bite off, but I think I’ll try.
If I mess up, God, or drop my new resolution, please don’t send me another bird in the house. One was enough, thank you.