Papaw's Bird

Monday, December 17, 2012

At church yesterday, our pastor encouraged us not to respond to Friday's tragedy with trite religious cliches. He told us that it is okay to say, "I don't know why," or simply, "I care." He said that sometimes, the arc of gratitude is long. 

I got to do two things during the church service that made me feel better. 
(1) We wrote prayers for the victims and put them in the offering plate. They will be sent to a Presbyterian church in Newtown. That made me choose my words carefully, and with great emotion.
(2) I saw my son's assistant Kindergartner teacher. I hugged her, and told her that I appreciate her in a whole new way now.

With those things in mind, I'm continuing with my plan to repost this article from two years ago. The message is not a chipper, "It'll be okay!" response to Friday's horror. It is simply one of my favorite Christmas memories, an acknowledgment of my own faith journey, and a reminder to just keep going.

When I was young, my grandfather, Papaw, hid a chirping bird in the Christmas tree. Every few seconds you would hear it, “Tweeeeet! Tweet-tweet-tweet! Tweeeeeet!” The adults rolled their eyes and walked away. I loved it. I was determined to find that bird. My grandparents’ tree was sprinkled with birds. Bird ornaments hanging by string, and bright red Cardinals perched on various branches. I paused by each one, listening.

“No, not that one. Keep looking,” Papaw would say, and around the tree I went. I knew it was there, somewhere. Years later, I learned that the bird was a small, battery operated speaker attached to the middle of the tree. 

This story makes me think about faith, childlike faith. The Bible says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) I was certain that there was a chirping bird in my grandparents’ tree. I could not see it, but I heard it. I searched. 

Whatever traditions you practice this holiday season, there is an element of faith. There is a need, and a desire, to believe in something bigger than you. Children practice faith all the time. They believe in fairy tales, monsters and even their parents. 

It is harder for adults. It is hard to have faith when you become aware of the larger, suffering world. It is hard to have faith when you feel financial strain, or your relationships are crumbling. It is hard to trust that everything will be worked out for good, eventually. And yet, we must. For what is the alternative? 

Faith, though, is not just blind hope. Faith requires work. As adults, we know that we cannot sit back and simply hope that food gets on the table or presents arrive for the little ones. We cannot simply hope that someone else will take care of the poor and the suffering. We must do it. We must work and give and strive, and then, hope our best efforts were enough. That is faith.

This season, if your faith is waning and you find yourself looking for answers, keep looking. Just keep going. It is that simple. If you are circling the tree in frustration, take a step back. Maybe you need to look at the bigger picture, and decide which bird to focus on next. Then step up close and listen. But no matter what, keep searching. One day, you will find what you are looking for. It might be the beautiful bird you imagined, or it might be something you never considered, like a speaker stuck to the middle of the tree. Either way, you got there with faith, and that’s a bird in hand. 

Linking with:
Michelle for Hear It/Use It

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One Response to “Papaw's Bird”

  1. I'm so glad you shared the sweet story of your Papaw - and the message, to simply keep going, is one I need to hear this week.

    Blessings to you, dear friend.