One day I was praying alone in a church in a rural area here in Ecuador, when all of a sudden I heard a thud. Something had fallen from the roof: it was a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest in the joint where the roof comes together.
As it lay on the ground chirping, I got to thinking: how can it get back into the nest? How will the parents respond? Can it fend for itself if I put it outside – will it get away from all the dogs and chickens and other creatures that roam around? So, I decided to wait a day, and see what happens. Later on, I noticed that the bird’s parents had returned and were feeding it as it chirped on the floor. I thought, let’s see if it makes sense to go back to the nest, or if the bird could be placed somewhere safe outside in a makeshift nest.
The next day came, and I got to the church when the priest arrived, and we talked about the baby bird that was still on the floor. I mentioned the parents, and he said the parents had left. So, he picked up the bird and brought it outside and placed it on a branch of a bush. He dug up a worm from the ground, and began to try to force feed the bird, but the bird would have none of it. Over and over, he stuck the worm to the bird’s beak, but it would open up, and retreated. He then tried to mash up the worm a bit, and the bird still backed off. Finally, he gave up, and the bird, now on the ground, managed to hop a bit away, and disappeared into the grass. We returned to the church, and there were the parents swooping around and chirping, looking for the baby. “Oh, the parents are here!” the priest said, surprised. I did the proverbial face-palm, internally.
See, the guy really hadn’t known what he was talking about. Because he didn’t take the time to notice, to inspect and investigate what was already going on. Instead, it was hero time: his own idea to save. To pull the bird out of it’s natural situation and force-feed it. Of course, it drove the bird away. Hopefully, it survived and it really was time to leave the nest.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus mentions something that gives a lot of insight to how he lives. He says,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does.” (Jn 5:19-20)
Jesus doesn’t save by intervening in what is happening. He doesn’t pull people out of what God is already doing in people’s lives, and he doesn’t force-feed anything. That’s why Jesus is attractive, and people come to him. He saves by seeing and collaborating in and bringing to completion what God is already doing.
God doesn’t need saviors. God doesn’t need heroes. He only needs partners. If you notice that society needs fixing, or that suffering people need healing, or people fallen out of the nest of life, remember that God is already doing something. If you put aside your hero complex and the rushing into action and force-feeding people your bright ideas, if instead you just let the situation be for a while, you can start to pay attention to what God is doing and saying. And you’ll avoid the regretful disaster of unintentionally hurting other people, and instead bring them together in peace.
You’ll become a partner.
“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Mt 6:26)
Today, this blog become a teenager! 13 years ago today I posted the very first reflection, seeking the hidden God in life to become more and more a partner. This is the 617th reflection, and while preparing for the challenges of dealing with adolescence (lol), these days I’ve been working on assembling the 450th to 600th reflections to publish a 4th book in the series. Each year it’s hard to believe how the time has flown. It’s been an amazing journey, and I look forward to how it continues. I hope this journey has somewhat helped you too in your life partnership with God. A Happy Birthday to ALM!