The Cardinal

It was only a couple of months ago that we first noticed him.  A bright red spot hidden in the foliage suddenly took flight.  Startled for a moment, we couldn’t take our eyes off of him.  He was the first Cardinal we had seen this year and was a welcome sight.  At the close of winter, it was a delight to imagine the forest along our walking path coming back to life and color returning to the dreary landscape.  It was also fun to see a bird that is so distinctive and familiar and be reminded that Spring was on the way.  If only for a moment, he brought joy into our lives.

Little did we know how many walks we would take along that same path in the weeks to come.  Looking for the Cardinal became a part of our new routine.  Some days he was easy to spot and on others, he startled us again.  Sometimes, we did not see him at all.  Many more birds are now evident along the path, but none is quite so colorful and bright as that Cardinal.  Today, we even noticed his mate and watched them flying about from branch to branch together.  Her coloration was not as bright, but no less beautiful.  What a pair they made.

Birdwatching is not something that I normally do.  In fact, I might have considered it a waste of time at previous moments in my life.  With so many other things to do, this seemed like a trivial activity and maybe even a distraction from more important things.  All that has changed now.  Not only do I have more time, I am also noticing different things and recognizing God’s hand in new ways.  His handiwork in nature and especially the beauty He has created are no longer peripheral matters, they are essential to my well-being.

All of us are rethinking what is essential and non-essential these days.  If I ever did take a moment to think about birds and their purpose, I assumed it was to function as seed spreaders.  They perform an important and essential part of the ecological plan that God put in motion at creation.  But they do so much more than that.  They sing, they fly, they mate, they provide for their young and they bring joy to the lives of us human beings.  Before I go to much further, however, I should state that I am fully aware that not all birds perform the same function and some are not as pretty as others.  In fact, some can be menacing and even scary.  Not so the Cardinal.

The Bible makes the point that birds have another essential purpose.  They remind us of God’s provision.  Matthew 6:26 says,

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Recently I was talking to an author about the reality of anxiety in our world today and took a moment to Google what word is the opposite.  Interestingly, the word that came us was trust.  I had expected something like peace or calm.  Then it hit me that a proper trust does lead to peace and calm.  We just don’t trust in the right things.  We tend to trust what we can see and what we can count on.  Then are lives are turned upside down and we don’t really know what we are looking at and what can be counted on any more.

So, as it turns out, birdwatching is a trust building experience and quite essential to my life.  Every time I see that Cardinal, I am reminded that he did not worry for one minute about his next meal.  God is calling me to look at the things that matter, the things He created, the things that glorify and magnify His presence in our world.  God is calling me to trust Him and see with new eyes that He can be counted on now and forever.  How wonderful that He brought this reminder in the form of a bright red bird that provides so much joy.

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