Some of the most profound life lessons I’ve learned have been from ordinary moments, liked the visit to Tybee Island several years ago. That experience taught me that I will get to where I need to be in life, not just geographical locations.
One summer afternoon, a bird and a cat taught me that God keeps his eye on me just as he watches over sparrows.
At the time I lived in Golden, Colo., at the base of a small mountain in that nurtured plenty of creatures from coyotes to rattlesnakes. Each spring magpies showed up, along with plenty of barn swallows.
My two cats sought the wonders of the outdoors from the balcony. Typically, I’d let them stay out as long as they’d like, leaving the door open so they could come in when they wanted.
One afternoon I was talking to a work partner when I noticed swift movement back inside from one of the cats. I didn’t pay attention until I heard the frantic rustle of bird feathers. There, underneath a table, was sweet, gentle Nelson amazed by the bird he’d brought in. The barn swallow was obviously injured and in distress.
After putting excited cats in another room, I eventually got the bird in a shoebox, placing it in a protected area that seemed suitable for leaving it in God’s hands. I placed the box in the shrubbery, opened the top and maneuvered it so the bird could get out. It seemed only right to offer a prayer for the bird, asking God to care for it since I could not. The bird didn’t move while I stood there. I assume it was dead, or close to it.
I returned back inside and worked for a couple of hours. Later, when I had a couple of errands to do, I headed to the garage. There, in front of my garage door, was the bird, still alive. How it managed to move 50 yards from where I left it is an impressive feat. What was even more astounding was that it was directly in front of my garage and none of the other four it had to pass to get there. Plus, there were many other directions it could have gone, some far more attractive with trees and shrubs.
Nope. Not for this bird. It was right in front of my garage. It seemed obvious to me that this wasn’t a coincidence. It was clear I had to do what I could to help the bird that appeared to have a strong will to live.
I called the vet’s office to get advice on what to do with an injured wild bird. There was, it turned out, a wild bird rescue on the other side of Denver. I called and the woman from the rescue said to bring it over, but to do so by 4 p.m. I said that I would be there as soon as possible. It was afternoon rush hour.
During the longer-than-usual drive, I gave pep talks to the bird, cheering on its strength, alternated with brief prayers for its survival. For it to die now seemed very wrong.
At the wild bird rescue, I was greeted by a woman in surgical scrubs. She took down notes about the incident and my contact information before holding out her hand for the $40 fee. She said the bird would be given a shot to counter the bacteria from the cat bite. The wing would be patched up. It would take a day or two before they’d know if the bird would recover. I could not call and they wouldn’t release any information. (This place deserves a story of its own. Perhaps some other day.)
I returned home feeling relief that the bird was given a chance to get well.
At the time I was working independently and there wasn’t steady pay. I was at the famine end of the feast spectrum, feeling frustrated then that I had to depend on God for every little thing. (Even though we are always dependent on God, it’s a different level of dependence when you have to work out every daily need.) I felt invisible to God, blaming him for abandoning me. And I felt guilty, even shame, for being in that kind of circumstance and having to rely on God.
Even though just a barn swallow, a lot of effort was made to ensure the bird was taken care of that day. The fact that it ended up right in front of my garage was the starkest evidence. Not many people were home during the day. Had the bird hobbled off in another direction, no one may have seen it until it was too late.
The laws of nature (a cat nabbing its prey) created the situation, but the effects were not outside the boundaries for intervention. When the need was evident, so was the means to meet it.
The experience with the bird was the lesson I needed then, and one I draw from still: If God readily cares for the sparrow, orchestrating events for its benefit, will he not readily care for us?