“What a dumb bird. Doesn’t it know it can’t get in?”
Upon my return to America last month, I discovered that, for weeks, a bird had been incessantly flying into the kitchen window of my parents’ house. I don’t mean every once in a while – I mean over and over and over in the same hour, all sunlit hours of the day. Ever since that warm week in February, I’m told, one bold female cardinal had been attacking the window every day, trying to get in.
Or so we thought. After doing some research, we learned that cardinals are very territorial birds. This one has likely been seeing its reflection in our window and lunging at it, thinking it’s another cardinal – an intruder. Birds rarely allow other birds of the same species to share territories because too many of one species in an area can exhaust food sources and nesting locations. The more you know, right?
But for a while there, we all guessed that the cardinal was trying to get in, possibly seeking warmth for a nest. Day in and day out, the cardinal would peck at our window again and again. When we put shiny paper on the outside of the window to disrupt the reflection, it simply flew to another window and continued its pecking.
“Gotta admire its persistence,” my dad said at one point. Still, most of our feelings have consisted of bewilderment. “Why does it keep trying to get in? Hasn’t it learned that there’s something in the way?”
We laugh and shake our heads at the bird that doesn’t know to quit. Yet it hit me recently: do we not often make the same smug remarks and excuses when God is trying to get into our hearts?
When the Father of Creation knocks at our door and refuses to quit on us, too often we simply stand there and watch, incredulously. “God, don’t you know about this enormous, impossible challenge that’s in the way? You’re wasting your time.”
Why do we sometimes push away from God’s answers to our problems? In those times, are we not all Sarah, overhearing God’s promise of a child and choosing not to believe, but to laugh?
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:10-15)
As I write this, I remember a shame not completely unlike Sarah’s when the Lord caught her laughing and doubting. Just a month ago I was a missionary in Asia, doing my part to help tend the Lord’s lost sheep. Yet I, too, began to feel lost over time. In my second year abroad, I was faced with challenges that made me feel less certain in my place and purpose there. Though I continued to share Gospel reminders with new friends, it felt like my heart had lost its fire for the mission. It eventually became a struggle for me to actively turn to God’s promises for comfort, despite a Bible always lying within my reach. Why?
When we are trying to work through a situation larger than ourselves, why is our first move often anything other than running to the arms and wisdom of our Heavenly Father?
Even if we are standing still, trying to convince ourselves that we’re not intentionally ignoring Christ, it is certainly not bringing us any closer to Him. In that case, we are just as good as running from the Lord, like Jonah.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)
When the Lord instructed him to preach against Nineveh, “the city of blood, full of lies” (Nahum 3:1), Jonah fled from responsibility. Such a dedicated servant should have leapt at the opportunity to deliver God’s merciful warning to Nineveh and save its people (“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” Jonah 3:4). Whether by fear or pride, Jonah was so determined to avoid his call that, rather than obeying God’s will under His protection, he opted to face the dangerous seas and flee to a faraway city. As we all know, it was during this voyage that God sent a great storm upon the ship, setting off a string of events in which Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a massive fish.
Why didn’t Jonah want to go to Nineveh and do what the Lord commanded him? Why didn’t Sarah believe our Heavenly Father when he declared she would bear a child? Fear, pride, a little of both? God only knows.
It is easy to debate Jonah’s reasons for disobedience and Sarah’s reasons for disbelief, but what is our reason? What could possibly excuse us from averting our hearts from the Father? When God loves us so much that he refuses to quit on us, even to the point of His death and resurrection, shouldn’t we jump for joy and praise Him instead of hiding behind the curtains, wondering “why?”
“Why?” is a common response when God asks us to do something difficult. Like stand up for our faith. Like read our Bibles. Like pray. Like trust in Him. Like believe that the Holy Spirit’s pecking at our hearts is not random or pointless, but perfectly intentional – because God loves us, and because he has a plan for us. His persistence is his way of helping us keep his commands in a changing, challenging world so that we may continue to have fellowship with Him.
God commanded Jonah to go and to preach; every Christian has the same command in Matthew 28. God urged Sarah and Abraham to trust in Him when he asked, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”; every Christian has the same duty to trust in their Savior.
And why shouldn’t we trust in Him?
One year after Sarah laughed at him in her old age, God in his almighty kindness gave her Isaac.
And for Jonah, even getting stuck in a fish was a stroke of improvement. To us it seems a horrible scenario: three days and three nights in the damp, hot blackness of a sea creature’s stomach, surrounded by sour bile and half-digested food. In fact, God was granting mercy to Jonah in this situation. Out of compassion the Lord sent that fish to save Jonah from drowning and give him time to reflect and pray, just as He was granting compassion to Nineveh by giving it time to repent. And so it did, once Jonah returned to his faith and heeded the Lord’s call.
With the examples of Jonah and Sarah, not to mention Abraham, Zechariah, Peter, Saul, and countless others before us, we have even less reason than they for running from our Heavenly Father… all when He’s just trying to help us.
So don’t run. Fear, love, and trust in God above all things. When you feel the Spirit tugging at your heart, leading your eyes to land on that Bible collecting dust on the shelf – don’t ignore it. When you have the opportunity to go to a small group or a Bible study, even if you won’t know anyone – go! When you have a rough day and can listen to a sermon on your drive home or an hour of pop music, choose God’s word – it’s full of His loving promises! Friends, when you hear the determined tap of that spiritual songbird pecking at the window of your heart, whatever you do – don’t laugh and walk away. Indulge that little bird of faith tapping at the window, for it is singing a song of salvation that you don’t want to miss.
A few days ago my parents found a new tip for our feathered friend and smeared soap all over the outside of our kitchen window. For now, it seems that’s doing the trick.
We all know that there’s no keeping God away, though. From a massive rock sealing his tomb to death itself, there is no obstacle too great for the LORD.
In the challenges of this world he might make you wait, he might put you in a whale of a situation, or something else entirely – but in his plans for you our Lord will never revoke his promises of salvation. He will never stop calling you to his loving embrace. You gotta admire His persistence.