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Dependence and Preparedness

On my front porch, I have a barn swallow nest. I wrote about it a few weeks ago here. The swallows have recently hatched another clutch of four shown in the picture to the left. Tonight as I watched the chicks waiting to be fed by their parents, I realized some parallels.

The chicks are always hungry. They are waiting urgently for food. If they think that food is coming, they stretch forward with all of their energy, crying for attention with mouths wide open. They are unable to get their own food and must wait for it to be hand (beak?)-delivered. The parents put the food directly into their mouths in a manner akin to a lion tamer putting his head inside the mouth of the great feline. It is up to the parents to make sure that all are fed enough.

The chicks don’t seem to have much say in who gets selected. Anytime they think food is nearby, they start opening their beaks, even if neither parent is around. Their timetable is very different than that of their parents, but the parents seem to have one that works to get all of them fed.

The chicks crawl over each other jockeying for position, and there were a couple of times where, if they kept going, one would be pushed or fall out of the nest, a fatal drop. Yet it was in vain. While some did get more food than others during the ten minutes or so I watched, all four did receive some, so the jockeying seemed for naught.

It is funny how we are like those chicks. We really don’t have control over our fates, and are ultimately dependent on God to provide for us. He rarely moves on our timetable, but is never late. A woman in a church I attended years ago had a motto: “God is an 11:59 God. If you need something no later than noon, don’t look for God to show up before 11:59.” The challenge is that we tend to set our clocks fast, so to us it appears He shows up at 12:01, but we’re the ones who are off.

He gives more to some, but some to all. All of our jockeying and screaming at others’ expense fails to help matters and often hurts. Yet we do have a role—to be ready to receive. Just as the parents cannot feed a chick who has its beak closed, God has a hard time giving us what we need if we aren’t ready and asking for it. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3

But we are more than birds. We have the choice to wait patiently for God to provide. I recently read/heard somewhere that the Isaiah 40:31 passage is often unclear in its translation of what it means to wait.

Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:27-41

It turns out that the ‘wait’ here is an active verb, in the sense of a butler waiting on the master of the house, not passive, like a couch potato waiting for the lottery office to call. Thus, we are to wait upon God, as opposed to waiting for Him. In this the birds have it more right than we usually do. They prepare and position themselves to receive their food, beaks open, straining towards where their parents will alight.

We are to do the same. Many of Christ’s parables tell us to prepare for Him and chastise those who do not. Where we should differ from the birds is we are to help each other prepare, and lift each other up to be in position to receive, rather than trampling over each other to position ourselves.

As I watch the nest, I wonder what provision God has put into the feeding dynamic so that all chicks do get fed. Is there a scent difference based on how long since each mouth has been fed, or do the parents somehow keep track of which chicks they’ve fed? Is it random? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we have the intelligence and self awareness to pay attention to the needs of each and help or hurt or ignore. Part of waiting upon God may just include lifting each other up, and allowing others to lift us up to receive from Him as we each have need. But at the very least, we should always be ready for when He provides.

Being like the chicks in the photo ain’t a very attractive comparison. They’re ugly little cusses. But in time, they will get their plumage. In time, so will we. (I Corinthians 15:42-55)


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