Lacey spring air painted the deck with a thin sheet of frost. The hushed anticipation of renewal was checked by a last thrust of winter’s fading power. The trees swollen with life waited backstage for their coming glory-crowning and the sky held the promise of blue skies and long days coming.
My husband discovered her in the morning. The tiny warbler, like a slip of sunlight on our back porch, lying motionless, lying flightless and afraid. She must have been overzealous, excited by the prospect of sweet new days, of plentiful food, of warm warbler chicks with chirping cries and beating hearts.
Full of spring-life, she flew against the reflecting glass of the window, and she fell. There on the deck, my husband found her cold body, her tiny cold body with the shadow of a heartbeat, the faint whisper of a dying hope in the season of life. I looked at her and the sorrow came over my heart like a veil.
I had to go. I couldn’t stay, and she was dying. Before I left, I said to my husband--remembered something that I had read in a Birding magazine—Rub her body gently with your finger to coax her back to life; the bird may only be stunned, even though she gives the appearance of dying. She may only have had the wind knocked out and needs to be kept warm and regain her strength—
So I asked him to try it and left, doubting that it would work, that revival was a possibility, that the little yellow warbler would taste the sweet air again and feel the delight of spring on her wings.
Thoughts flew through my mind as I drove—if she didn’t improve, we could bring her to the Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Peace, RI; maybe they could help her-maybe they could do something. What could I do but try and throw a feeble, hopeful suggestion over my shoulder?
So he stayed there with the little warbler and I left. And I hoped as I drove and I prayed . . .
I knew a woman stunned, fallen like the yellow warbler. Her breath knocked from her through the crash of sharp providence, she fell, wounded and unable to pick herself up.
Sometimes tragedy is like that. Sometimes it knocks the wind from us and leaves us so shaken that we cannot pick ourselves up. Sometimes we sit like Job in the dust, speechless and crushed, scraping our wounds with the broken pottery of the well-meaning words of our friends and bleeding the sorrow of the enemies' pompous jeering triumph.
Sometimes we cannot pick ourselves up. Sometimes there are too many broken pieces and the confusion overwhelms and the eyes cannot see for the teardrops that cloud them.
And sometimes God calls us to be a Hur or an Aaron to some precious child of His who cannot lift their arms, who cannot find the words to pray. There are Adoniram Judsons among us who are standing sentry at some lonely grave for months and months and they cannot wrench themselves from the jungle of their sorrow. They cannot lift themselves from the despair, from the dying; they have had their breath knocked out.
It is so easy, like Job’s friends, to cast a judgement on the downcast, to offer a quick-fix, to empty blame upon a bleeding heart when no immediate answer can be found for the reason behind their suffering.
Does there have to be a reason that we can fold our eager fingers around? How did Job’s friends know that there was a contest in the heavenlies raging around a small, faithful servant of God named Job? How can we fully know as finite humans what purpose is in the mind of God in our sufferings? How can we grasp Omnipotence and Divine Wisdom?
We cannot . . . but we can trust Him for His purpose in what He allows and ordains. And we can know that He will protect and preserve those who are His, those He shelters in His great Father-hand of love and truth and awesome justice.
Who knows how long Job suffered . . . Would the church today condemn him for sitting in the dust? Are we sometimes so impatient with our fellow brothers and sisters that we leave them on the frosty deck, thinking that if it is God’s will they will revive and fly? Do we leave them to the “will of the Lord,” or do we lift them up and stimulate their faith, with sensitivity, compassion and patience? Do we help the blood to flow through their numb, lifeless limbs again, or are we frustrated when it seems like they are taking too long to “snap out of it?”
Do we pick them up, as Jesus reached out His hand to Peter in the raging waves? Peter’s faith had failed . . . and yet, the hand of Jesus, and the gentle rebuke of grace offered in love. Would He allow one of His to slip through the angry waves to utter ruin?
I love the way that Isaac Newton took lonely, depressed, suicidal William Cowper under his wing. What patience, what grace this great man of faith offered through the Holy Comforter. Is God calling one of us to be that kind of support to another of His own? To offer ourselves, to pour ourselves out for another child of God? Isaac Newton did it continually, even opening his home to Cowper as a refuge and encouraging the depressed poet laureate of England to write hymns of glory to the Father of all Comfort.
And we sing them today.
My husband called.
The warbler lived . . . sat up in his hand and eventually took wing to the sky.
Through the patience of waiting . . . and the mercy of God.
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