For me there is something magical about encountering a wild animal. Whether it’s an 8-point buck casually tip-toeing through the forest less than thirty feet away from my temporary perch during a recent Boot Camp, or catching a glimpse of a family of five raccoons strolling through our backyard late at night from the comfort of our couch, or waking up and finding hundreds of starlings blanketing our lawn as they use it for a brief pit stop during a fall murmuration, there is a part of me that leaps to life when it happens – I can feel this mixture of joy, excitement and curiosity begin to rise up. There is a sense of, ‘I don’t want this encounter to end because it feels so true.’ For me, it is also often where God shows up.
Yesterday, it was hummingbirds. Our puppy was, once again, up at the crack of dawn ready to start the day and so I found myself lying in the hammock in our backyard rather than crawling back into bed. The hammock is nestled between our deck and a nearby maple and provides a perfect view of the hummingbird feeder hanging off the corner of the deck. It was early enough in the morning that neither the sounds of the neighborhood nor the wind had woken up, but it was not too early for the hummingbirds. I barely had time to get myself situated in the hammock before a ruby-throated hummingbird darted to the feeder for a refuel. As I watched it hover, briefly land, and then hover again, that familiar sense of wonder returned and God began to connect some dots for me.
During the past few months, Jesus’ words about the vine and the branches in John, Chapter 15, have really stuck with me.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:1-5
This choice to ‘remain in Him’ has come up for me in Sunday sermons, in favorite podcasts, in books I’m reading, in the wise words of trusted friends, and now… hummingbirds.
A couple weeks ago I watched an episode of Nature which focused on hummingbirds.* Did you know a hummingbird has to feed on nectar every 20 minutes that it is awake? Every. Twenty. Minutes. For it’s entire life, which can be twelve years or more. Their little avian fuel tanks are so small and the rate at which they burn that fuel is so high, if they don’t feed almost constantly they will run out of fuel and be unable to fly.
Speaking of flight, what these tiny guys can do in the air is nothing short of a miracle. Their wings beat 50-80 beats per second and, unlike any other bird, they can hover, fly backwards and sideways, and at speeds of more 55 mph. As I watch this little guy from our hammock I think how incredible it would be to fly like that!
To get a sense of how deeply reliant hummingbirds are on nectar, consider this. Experts have estimated the amount of nectar a hummingbird must consume daily to sustain their unmatched flying abilities is the human equivalent of eating 1,300 hamburgers a day and washing it down with 16 gallons of water.
Hummingbirds must stay close to the flower – their source of energy – in order to hover, dart and zip through the air — in order to be what they were created to be and do what they were created to do.
It’s in this moment, in the stillness of the morning as I marvel at this little guy above me, that I realize their flower is a reflection of our Father.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
Oh, how I long to have an impact for the Kingdom, to know Him more intimately, to bear the kind of fruit where others can’t help but see the truth and glory of God through my life in the same way that I am absolutely captivated by this hummingbird, BUT…. how often do I go more than 20 minutes without drinking from my Father’s well?
Once again, I hear Him say, “Remain in me.” There is no condemnation, no judgment for my past and present wanderings. It is a simple but profound invitation. “You want to fly like the hummingbirds – you want to be what I created you to be. You can be – even this very day – all you need to do is drink from My well – not weekly, not daily, but minute by minute.” That’s a standing invitation for each of us.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words,
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:33-34
I cannot solve tomorrow’s problems today, nor can I change yesterday’s failures, but I can walk with Him today, in every moment. When I make the choice to do so, I know I am being exactly who he created me to be. And so I pause in the moment and say, “Jesus, oh, how I want to remain in you. Not just each week, each day or even each hour, but every minute of every day. Thank you for this reminder through your amazing creation!”
Job 12:7,10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you … In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
Today I’m reminded why my heart loves seeing wild animals – because they remind me of, and occasionally even teach me about, our amazing heavenly Father and how to walk closer with Him every 20 minutes of every day. The more I lean into Him, the more of my life I give over to Him, the more myself I become…..and the more he can use me, as he uses the hummingbird, to do amazing things that will draw others closer to Him.
* P.S. – If you want to learn more about what an incredible miracle of creation the hummingbird is check out the full episode, of Nature’s Super Hummingbirds on PBS’ website.