We have a bird feeder outside our window, near a thicket of small trees. We try to keep it packed up with a nice sunflower seed mix, especially during the winter, and its promise to attract a variety of birds is always made good.
Right now, with the icy mix as a backdrop, you can really see the variances in color and size and pattern. But, for all their differences, there is one thing they have in common. Just about every one of them is puffed out completely. With their feathers standing on end, they look to be about twice their size and plump as little Thanksgiving turkeys. Obviously, they’re puffed out like that due to the frigid weather. It helps them keep the cold out, I guess, and better able to face it, but we all know that underneath it all is a tiny, hollow-boned creature that doesn’t weigh much more than the feathers they wear.
Birds and people are not that different when it comes to keeping out the cold. We puff ourselves up against it, and try to appear bold and big, like there is nothing we can’t face. Life’s frigid air seeps in relentlessly, but we stoically put on a show that we are handling it all. The truth, however, is found underneath, where our brokenness and hurting hearts feel barely protected by our own hollow-feeling bones.
I saw one of those birds, recently – a very small finch – do something I’d never seen before. There was a cardinal perched on a lower, more interior branch of tree. It had found a place near the trunk that was sturdier in the wind. That little finch settled on the branch and shimmied right up next to that cardinal, and once it was close, seemed to relax his feathers a little, allowing himself to return to almost his normal size. The cardinal never made a move to chase him off; they just sat together quietly, side by side.
You know, I think he was on to something. We don’t have to pretend we’re okay when we’re not. We can find a friend who is on a sturdier branch and let them shield us from the cold for a while. Right there, next to the Unshakeable Trunk, we can let down our guard and just be.
It turns out that the cold deep inside is easier to eradicate when there isn’t a puffed-up show of feathers in the way.
Just ask the birds.
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31 ESV
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 ESV
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8 ESV
“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Psalm 91:4 NLT