By Denae Jones –
A few summers ago, a redbird came to the railing right outside of our living room window. He was beautiful, and we would watch him throughout the day. But in the evenings when the sun would start to set, he saw his reflection in the glass and thought there was another bird there. He would fly from the rail into the window, then fall to the ground. He would fly back up to the rail. Then back into the window. Then fall back to the ground. That dumb bird repeated this pattern for three straight months. It had to hurt. You would think he’d eventually realize that the same thing happened every single time he flew into the window, but he just had to keep chasing after that other bird. What he didn’t realize is that the other bird didn’t even exist. The only bird he was fighting with was himself.
Don’t we sometimes act the same way? We repeat the same thing over and over and wonder why we aren’t getting anywhere. Sometimes we feel like one of those little fish in a bowl at the fair, swimming around and around, thinking, “Oh. I’m back here again.”
How many times have we started a diet and quit, started a diet and quit, started a diet and quit? We wonder why it’s not working as we slurp down the last of our 48oz soda. I will do great with controlling my diet at home, but refuse to give up my snack drawer at work. Everyone else’s office garbage cans are filled with crumpled papers and post-its, and mine is filled with wrappers and snack boxes. It’s my thing. It makes me happy. (And yes, I’m on to those of you who figured out how to break into the snack drawer. But I like you. I’ll share.) However, I can’t complain about not dropping the extra pounds when I never do anything differently.
On a more serious note, maybe that reflection we are fighting in the window is the memory of something terrible that has happened to us. Year after year, we allow ourselves to go back to the same, hurtful place in our minds. We hold onto the bitterness and refuse to give forgiveness. Who are we punishing?
It makes me think of Christine Caine. She is a very influential speaker, who tells the story of being left un-named and un-wanted in a hospital, adopted into a family who lived in one of the poorest areas of Australia, then sexually abused for 12 years. She could very easily live her life as a victim. However, she makes the point that she is now in her 40’s, so she has been living without the abuse much longer than she had been living with it. She said that what God did for us is bigger than what anyone else can do to us. So very true. Christine did not waste her pain by swimming around that same fish bowl. She used it for good. She now runs one of the largest organizations in the world to help stop sex trafficking.
Sometimes, it’s not what someone else did to us, but some terrible mistake we made ourselves. Sometimes we are the ones we can’t forgive. We can be our own worst enemies. Do we want to be like that bird, and keep falling over and over again before we learn that we are only fighting with ourselves? Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s compassion for us is new every morning! Shouldn’t we learn from that example and be more compassionate toward ourselves? We don’t need to keep banging our head against that same window. We don’t need to keep fighting with things that don’t exist. And we certainly don’t need to keep punishing ourselves when we’ve already been forgiven. Perhaps we can just be thankful for God’s grace and mercy.
As I write this, news is coming in of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I keep getting texts from one of my kids asking to come home from school because they are sad and feel unsafe. It breaks my Mama’s heart that they live in such a broken world. But maybe we can learn one thing from that bird. Every time he fell, he kept getting back up.
Michael Roby wrote about the principle of perseverance. He said, “Perseverance is continued action toward the attainment of a goal, regardless of circumstances or obstacles, and a belief-system which says all setbacks are temporary. It shows a determination to press on despite obstacles, difficulty, or delay. Perseverance demonstrates commitment to the value of an objective. While one may try different solutions, or seek new information, they press on, focusing on solutions, not problems.”
I did not let my child come home from school today because I don’t want them to live in fear. Michael Roby got it exactly right. We have to persevere. Let’s focus on the solutions, not the problems. I want my child to see the importance of getting back up despite the obstacles or difficulty. We can’t control what evil others choose to do, but we can choose to be a light in our little corner of the world in spite of it. We can show determination to focus on the joy and not the pain. God has put us right where we are, on this timeline of the world’s history for a reason. You have a purpose. You can make a difference, right where you are.
God is not shocked by our failure, (Psalm 103:14) He prays for us, (Hebrews 7:25) and He believes in us (Luke 22:32). And even though a righteous man stumbles seven times, he gets back up again. (Proverbs 24:16) Let’s get up knowing that we have been shown new compassion with each new day. Let’s get up and do it differently this time. Let’s do it better.
Have a blessed week, friends!