(June 7, 1989)
A strange persistent noise drew our son, home alone, away from the computer and into the family room. He thought someone was in the house. He listened a few moments, and then realized a bird had tumbled down the chimney and was inside the wood-burning stove.
After calling some experts on the art of catching and freeing a bird without hurting it, he gingerly opened the stove door. There perched on the grate was an ash-covered sparrow. But it refused to fly out the opening. So he reached in. Eventually it came out -- and the chase was on.
Over the sofa and under the TV. Back and forth and up and down the hall. Finally, he “trapped” it in his bedroom. With the door closed and the window open, surely the bird would go where it obviously wanted to be.
But no, the little creature darted under the dresser and under the bed, everywhere but out the open window. Finally, large bath towel in hand, he crept up and tossed the towel gently over it. Then he carefully scooped it up in his arms, took it outside, and released it.
Can you imagine what might have been going through that bird’s mind? “What is this heartless giant going to do to me? I must not let him near me. Surely he will hurt me. I have to get away from him. I want to be free. If he catches me, he is going to spoil my freedom.”
In ignorance of our son’s intent, the frightened bird was hardly cooperative. Actually, no one can really blame the bird. Our son couldn’t talk sparrow-talk and make his intentions known. No other birds who might understand human kindness dropped by to set its pounding heart at ease. In the bird’s mind, the size and action of the human only conveyed one message -- this huge “thing” is out to get me.
Sometimes a similar reaction occurs when the topic of God comes up, at least in the minds of people who do not understand His intent. Mention His name, church, Jesus Christ, Christianity, or any other spiritual word and they flap all over the place looking for a way out. “Not me,” they say. “I’m going to live my own life and no one is going to ruin all my fun.” To them, God is the ultimate killjoy, the destroyer of freedom. In their minds, submission to Him could not do anything but enslave.
How sad. God says “I know the thoughts I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” He is not at all a killjoy trying to enslave anyone. Instead, He is a Deliverer, One who will take us out of the prison we have put ourselves in and set us free.
The prison? Not exactly the same as a tumble down a fireplace chimney but a tumble nonetheless. God created man innocent and able to have communion with Him, without fear. However, since that first bite into the forbidden fruit, all have sinned and broken that communion. Sin is simply turning from God and acting independently of Him. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, eternal separation from God, eternal destruction.
Oh, it may not seem like a prison from a human perspective. Even the bird might have thought he was in an interesting “cave,” not a stove where the contents are eventually incinerated. He may have even enjoyed flying around our house and running into the walls. Some humans go through life like that, crashing through and thinking the fast lane is a blast.
But at the end, when life runs down and the markers are called in, the wages must be paid. It’s like grocery shopping. The cart can be piled as high as one likes with whatever one likes, but eventually all must go through the checkout. When we get to that point, it’s too late to put some of the stuff back on the shelves and start over. Just like the bird, we don’t have the capacity to fly back up the chimney.
If our son had talked bird-talk, the bird may have listened and saved itself all that stress. Fortunately for it, its eventual freedom did not depend on its response, or lack of it. However, ours does. God in His Son Jesus Christ came to talk man-to-man in our language and set us free. Are we listening?