The Sparrow

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”  Matthew 6:26

The other week I was doing laundry, hanging clothes out on the line. I went to pull the line in, and as I did a little sparrow that had been sitting on it got caught in the wheel. Feathers were flying, he was distressed. I quickly reversed direction, releasing this poor little creature. He was unsettled and unstable trying to stay on the line, tail twitching and wings flapping. He was clearly unbalanced. His partner came to his side trying to understand his stress and pain. She couldn’t do anything but be there. He eventually flew into a neighbouring tree, and she went with him.

I love birds. We have a huge assortment of birdhouses in the backyard, with a potential for more if we could find a place to mount them. We have wrens and finches, mourning doves and cardinals, sparrows and chickadees. We feed them all year round.

Sparrow houseEach birdhouse has babies to feed, with mother and father both working hard to provide nourishment to their growing offspring. Back and forth from feeder to babies to feeder for more. It’s never ending. Every once in awhile an adult will flutter down to our pond, stepping into the water flow where they can grab a quick drink and a bath  It’s quite magical.

I’ve also noticed that I am quite present when this is going on around me, and this simple time in my backyard gives me hours of contentment and entertainment. The birds are very comfortable with me being out there with them, and my husband says that I am like Snow White. It makes me chuckle every time.

The male sparrow builds the nest in the hopes of persuading a female to mate. I have watched a male spend weeks checking out a new hole – in and out, assessing, wondering if it would suit. Then he begins to build. Other birds have partners and babies to feed, but the male will sit alone by his new nest leaving only to get building materials. If patient, he will eventually be one of the lucky ones, finding a mate to raise their family. I find the whole process fascinating.

So, having this male bird in distress because of my actions brought great anxiety and sadness to me. Would he just go away to die? Do they mate for life? Would she be left alone to feed these babies on her own? Would the babies be abandoned? It broke my heart.

A few days later I was sitting quietly by my pond, watching a frog waiting for bugs, and of course all the activity around the bird feeders and nests. Without warning a lone male sparrow sat awkwardly on the fence alongside me, perched on one leg. He softly landed by the waterfalls of the pond, hopped in for a quick drink then left again. I kept watching for him to return, and a few minutes later he drifted by me. I instantly knew it was him. What a gift it was to see that he was alright, and back on task. It was like he needed me to see him, to know that he was fine.

He fluttered over to the feeder then to the nest. Instead of landing on the perch, he awkwardly leaned into the hole using his wings as leverage to press into his peeping chicks.  He couldn’t land the way a normal sparrow would, but he had adapted. Such resilience!

Watching this bird survive his trauma has been a gift, and I was reminded of a few things through this ordeal.  

During the trauma of my divorce there was a scripture that I had clung to as if it was life itself. I let its truth sweep over me again and again – if a little bird would always be cared for, I knew that I would also be fine. It gave me the strength to go on.

I was scared and stressed. I wanted to crawl into a hole, curling into the fetal position, weeping in helplessness and insecurity. Was I going to be alright? What would happen to me? How was I going to survive the changes that were soon to transpire? Was I going to have to sell my home? Where would I go? How will I afford this?

Watching this little bird, it dawned on me how I had also adapted when my life had become broken and shattered. I didn’t know how to go on, but somehow I did. I had adjusted to a new single life. A life of aloneness, but peace. Fulfillment in my career and relationships. A time of focus on my mental well being. A chance to journal my heart’s pain. A time to lean into God as He wrapped His wing around me, giving me a quiet place to weep and grieve and heal. I felt safe there.

The bird hadn’t gone off to die, or to give up on his family, but rather adjusted his placement on the perch in order to fill those starving mouths. His partner would come in for a landing right after him, and away they went fulfilling the tireless task of filling baby bellies. His desire to live and serve his family far outweighed his desire to go someplace quiet to die. He knew he mattered as I had learned that I mattered.

Sometimes we hurt others without meaning it and sometimes others hurt us. When he landed near me, I felt absolved of any guilt that I was feeling. I felt forgiven. Forgiving others, seeking forgiveness, forgiving ourselves – it matters to those on our journey. In forgiveness there is the process of giving it, receiving it, and accepting it. Forgiving (and being forgiven) is liberating for all parties.

Sparrows do not mate for life. Yet, in his distress his partner stayed as his faithful one for a season. Just being there was enough. For us, it’s ok to cry and to fall apart with that kind of friend. We don’t have to be strong when we are not, and it’s in those times that healing comes. Friends will come, stay, then go along their journey, but the right one always seems to be there when we need them.

When the time has come that the brood leaves the nest, these two little ones will part ways. I’ll be watching to see if he brings a new one home to start again.

This little bird will never be the same, and neither will I…and that’s okay. We both have picked up the amazing attitude of doing things differently, while still being part of our families and society. I promise you, it’s going to be alright.

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