I am surprised by the things that surprise me lately. Many months of semi-separation and isolation, a whole week of near snowbound, a winter’s worth of cabin fever, and Doris has finally gone over the edge. Now, you know she is one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving people on the planet. Anyone would say, that while she may have other flaws, her gentle spirit is obvious to all.
Imagine my surprise to find out she has a mean streak, a despising bent, a near hatred for, well, for big birds. Not Big Bird, the giant, yellow, hero of Sesame Street. I THINK she loves him. (I can’t be sure anymore.) But big, or at least bigger birds. We have a small bird feeder just outside the window beside the chair that she sits in to have her morning quiet time. I make sure to keep birdseed in it so she can enjoy the coming and going of these precious little feathered friends of God as she meditates on His Word. A beautiful scene, to walk into the family room and see my wife, eyes closed in prayer, and just a few feet from her, on the other side of the glass, a couple of finches, heads bowed, praying with her. Imagine Snow White in the Disney movie.
Back to my surprise. I was shocked to hear her yesterday, banging on the glass, spewing epithets of bitterness, and anger, at the creatures on the other side. I hurried into the room to see her waving her arms in the classic “shooing” motion at a dove, a dove of all things, sitting in the little swing. Her frustration spilled over as she told me. “The little birds are trying to get some birdseed and the bigger birds, like cardinals, and blue jays, keep chasing them away.” I wasn’t clear how she was shooing ONLY the big birds and the little ones knew she was welcoming them with open arms.
Selective love is a difficult thing to master, and even harder to overcome. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor,” for example, and then has to go into a long story about a Samaritan because the people listening are trying to only love SOME neighbors. Paul writes a big part of the New Testament to the churches that are wanting to only love a certain group of people, or at least, people that are following a certain set of rules. I know that I am sure guilty of only loving those people that look good enough, smell good enough, or vote good enough. I can be pretty selective in my “loving.”
Because of that, it is pretty easy to expect God to love ME like that. HE loves me when I keep all of the rules. He loves me when I have it all figured out. He loves me when I am on top, but if I fall, watch out. He only loves selectively. He is standing by the window of heaven, waving His arms and shooing me away, so that the people He loves can get the blessings. I read this beautiful, old hymn in my devotional book today, “Dear Master in whose life I see, all that I would, but fail to be; Let thy clear light forever shine, to shame and guide this life of mine.” Really? Do we really think that He only shines His light on us to bring such shame that we know what miserable, unwanted birds we are?
No offense to the ancient songwriter, but NO! That’s not the way God operates at all. If there is anything consistent in Scripture, it is His love for me, for all of us, all of the time, everywhere. It is the story of the Prodigal Father, running for His son while he was still a long way off. It is the Good Shepherd, leaving the 99 sheep, and going out after the one lost lamb. It is Jesus, kneeling in the dirt beside the adulterous woman, saying, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” Or hanging on the Cross, and in His last human interaction, before His death, saying to the thief hanging beside Him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” One thing that is clear, His love is not selective and His method is to draw us to Himself by that love, not by shaming us. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And so, it seems, if He loved me that way, then my responsibility is to love others that way. Right now, during this Lenten Season, during these 40 Days of remembering His passion and His pure love for us, perhaps we should focus more on loving broadly, especially those big birds that are hard to love, and putting any desire to be selective behind us. No more tapping on the window and shooing away for me. God, help me to accept, affirm, admit into my heart ALL of your creatures, great and small. Help me to love like You love.
I am challenging a group of people that are observing Lent with me to do one kind, loving, maybe anonymous act each day. I hope that many of those acts are for people that in the past, we were guilty of shooing away.
And as for Doris, well, I love her with all my heart, but I’m going to go lock my shotgun up right now. I fear for that blue jay’s life.
To learn more about our 40 Days of Lent: Love Actually, go to branchesblog.com. (Oh, I guess you’re already here 😊 )