I want to share with you something important I learned this morning from a bird. Well, actually not so much from a bird, but through a bird. The lesson was from a much higher place- but we’ll get to that part later.
Since I am a full-time mom, wife and college student life is pretty busy. That’s why breaks from school are so valuable—I squeeze a lot of tasks into those few weeks off when I don’t have classes. Usually, I have lists for deep cleaning (that gets pushed onto the back burner when I’m in school), plus I also plan extra family things and anything else that has slipped through the cracks. This winter break is no different. Since I’m a nerdy sort of gal, I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish during winter break—and came up with a list of twenty really important things I needed to finish. It included simple things like sorting through my clothes, to bigger grander projects like de-clutter the kitchen and downstairs closets. And even some spiritual goals of listening to some sermons I had been “saving up” for when I had more time. So now that I had my super-list, I set out to kick some tail feathers and get this stuff done.
Yesterday I started bright and early—first with the piles and piles of laundry, then onto sorting the kitchen debris, recycling, bringing out the junk-jewelry drawer for sorting, and onward. It did cross my mind to put a sermon on to listen to while I hurried around, but I figured I had loads of time for that—and besides, wouldn’t it be better to sit down and really pay attention while I listen? Yes, that would be better. So, on I went, cleaning and sorting, organizing and categorizing. This may sound totally boring to some of you free-spirits out there, but with my personality, its heaven! (A beaver’s dream is to build the perfect dam). Anyway—on my day went… and I was accomplishing so much! Wouldn’t my family be proud? Didn’t I feel good? And look how bright and shiny everything is!!
Not a spot on the kitchen floor! And those perfectly-placed knick-knacks in the bay window look gorgeous (freshly dusted, of course). As I surveyed my workmanship, it crossed my mind that the day was really moving along and that I should get some Bible study in before it got too late. But, then—look at the time! Ray and Ariel will be home so soon—and doesn’t a good Proverbs 31 wife have dinner ready for her family? Of course she does. So dinner got made, more laundry got washed and put away, and I even squeezed in putting new sheets on all the beds. Ladies, you know what I mean—this was a great day of domestic success. I was a cleaning diva! Certainly this was important, right? The evening wrapped up well—I even had time to fill out some important paperwork for school next term. And lastly, I made my husband lunch for the next day and said goodnight to a perfectly beautiful, clean kitchen. As I finally went to sleep after a long day, it crossed my mind (again) that I hadn’t made time for Bible study. But I was so tired. I made plans to study tomorrow and went happily off to dreamland. Much like Martha's story in Luke 10: 40-42, I had not seen what was really important.
A new day – a new beginning
Today was different. I woke up late (must have been tired from all that cleaning), but I was still determined to keep going on my winter break list. Ariel was super tired today, too, but we managed breakfast and outfits, clothes and so on until at last we were ready to head out the door for her school. I was looking forward to getting back and beginning the project of de-cluttering the downstairs closets when all of a sudden, Ariel gave out a shout of surprise and said, “Mom! Emmy has a mouse!” Our cat, Emmy is a beautiful long-haired tabby who is a great huntress, even though she is declawed. We looked over to the kitchen floor, where we saw her holding down something. I figured we had about five minutes to spare before we had to get Ariel to school (and I don’t want a mouse running around in my clean kitchen!), so off we went to save squeaky. As we get closer, Emmy grabs the mouse, leaps up into the bay window and knocks several things over. She also manages to put her big, wet, hairy cat feet all over my important school papers. Then, another shout of alarm from Ariel, “Mom—it’s a bird!!!” Yep, Emmy had brought a bird into the house! And it was still alive, and --- oh joy--- it could still fly.
As I was trying to process this, the cat saw us coming at her, decided to drop the bird, and get out of the way. The bird was desperately trying to flap its way to freedom. We quickly got a broom, opened the sliding glass door and tried to shoo it out of the house. But the crazy little chickadee just kept flying all over the kitchen— onto my china teapots, onto the top of the fridge, over to the fruit basket, back to the bay window. The dog was barking, the bird was fertilizing everywhere, the cat was running, brooms were flying in the air, and basically, all was chaos. Finally we got a towel to cover the bird—but we couldn’t quite get him. At the last possible second, when I thought I had him, he suddenly flew away…. and went upstairs! UGH. Well, now it was clear that this was going to be a major undertaking (with no more help from the cat, thank you very much), and we simply had to get Ariel to school, so I resolved to catch the bird as soon as I got back.
Fifteen minutes later, I was back at home, armed with a broom and a towel, looking for the missing bird. I checked Ariel’s room first… no bird. But I did find the added bonus of bird fertilizer on her newly-changed sheets. Then onto my room….. "Ah Yes!" I heard flapping—found the little guy. Thankfully, he had trapped himself in-between the blinds and the window and I was able to maneuver a towel over his little body. So, bird in hand, I took him downstairs, outside and set him free. That was a good moment until I turned around and went inside and then it was a different story. My poor kitchen had been completely trashed. How could one little bird make such a huge mess? My knick-knacks were no longer shiny; they were covered in bird droppings and teeny-tiny little feathers. The kitchen table was a disaster zone, my school papers had muddy cat paw-prints on them, the fruit was a total loss and the floor was a mess. Not to mention what our little feathered guest did upstairs. Really? Come
, on! I just spent the day cleaning and now it’s come to nothing.
And then it hit me
All my hard work had come to nothing, it was nothing. The words of Solomon the preacher came to mind. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind,” he writes in Ecclesiastes 1:14 Ecclesiastes 1:14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
American King James Version×. Anything I managed to do the day before, a little bird undid in less than 30 minutes. And when I re-clean it, it will be undone by something else.
So, then, what lasts? I knew the answer-- Only God. Only the spiritual things we do for Him—the time we spend with Him, the work we do to glorify Him. I realized that I had my day totally backwards—and God had used a tiny little chickadee to remind me. “Put Me first”, He was saying. Everything else is temporary. I had my list all wrong—Bible study, prayer, spending time with my Creator should have been at the top of the list—not squeezed into the cracks. God doesn’t want to be squeezed into our lives; He wants all of our lives.
Solomon wrote something about birds, too. “Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them” (Ecclesiastes 9:12 Ecclesiastes 9:12For man also knows not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly on them.
American King James Version×). We don’t know how much time we have left. If I am too busy cleaning my kitchen to pay attention to spiritual things, what benefit is it to me at the end? What account can I give? I don’t think “sorry I ignored you, but look at my sparkly kitchen” will work. And I knew it wouldn’t work. But I didn’t listen. So now I have a big mess to clean up, and the realization that it can wait.
I have more important things to do right now. I have to think about the love of my God and how under His hands, even a tiny bird can remind me of His amazing care for me.
To learn more about putting God first, read the free Bible study aid, "Who Is God?"