A Lesson From the Birds

A Lesson From the Birds

  • Post published:June 7, 2015

This morning, when I stepped out onto my back porch, I was met with a disturbing sight. Two barn swallow hatchlings lay motionless on the floor. The parents, one in the nest above and the other nearby, chattered loudly. I immediately knew something was wrong.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that one of the hatchlings was still breathing. Moments later, it attempted to move. The feeling of sadness that I initially experienced upon finding what I thought were two dead hatchlings, turned into a feeling of mild panic. What should I do now? It was clear that one of the hatchlings was dead, but the other was alive. What if it had somehow fallen? Maybe another bird had disturbed the nest. Now it was my turn to be motionless. I stood there staring at the defenseless little creature and wondered what to do.

Silly as it may seem, I questioned the parents. “Why don’t you pick up your baby?” Yes, I was talking to barn swallows and no, I did not expect them to answer me. After repeatedly pleading with them to do something and basically stalling for time because I did not know how to act, I decided to do something. I had read that if you find a baby bird near its nest, then you should put it back into the nest. So, this is exactly what I decided to do.

Now, don’t think for a moment that this was an easy decision. You see, this was not my first experience with birds and what appeared to be fallen birds. Just last summer, a phoebe nested in the same spot on my porch. One day, several of her fledglings were out of the nest and on the porch floor. One of them died. I decided to help the survivors, so I put them back in the nest. The next day, the Phoebes were gone. I suspect that the parents disliked me tampering with their babies. I hoped that the parents somehow took their babies elsewhere, but I really don’t know what happened to them. They may have abandoned them to die in the nest.

So, it was with some hesitation that I climbed my ladder and carefully placed the surviving barn swallow back in the nest. The parents flew off while I was executing the rescue and I prayed that they would return, and the baby bird would recover from the fall. I went back into the house and watched for quite a while until the parents came back and tended to the nest. All was well, or so I thought.

It was a Sunday, so we went off to church. Upon our return, I glanced out the back door and my heart sank. There on the porch floor was the hatchling. Well, I’m assuming it was the same one. Up above in the nest sat one of the parents with the other nearby on the railing. So, evidently, the parents did not want that hatchling in their nest. I’m assuming there was something wrong with it. Clearly, my intervention had not been helpful. There was a plan at work that I could not see, and my efforts had only delayed the inevitable.

Interestingly, while at our church service I had thought about the birds. It seemed there was a message in my experience that morning. I had thought the message was that we should always endeavor to do something when we encounter a situation. Given what I witnessed when we returned home, I’m not sure that was the message after all. Perhaps the message was that God has a plan and we need to trust that plan.

Sometimes we try to act on something that is beyond our control. I’m not saying that you should not help a fallen bird. James 4:17 says “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” However, if I had decided to put that hatchling back into the nest a second time that would have been unwise. As it was, there was the possibility that I could have injured the other hatchlings in the nest the first time I attempted to save the “fallen” hatchling. Or, I could have scared the parents away from the nest permanently and the remaining hatchlings would have died.

In Proverbs 3:5 it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding.” I do not understand why the hatchlings were removed from their nest, but I do understand that birds know what they are doing. God has designed them perfectly to live and breed without interference from me.

Oftentimes, it is difficult to trust that God has a plan. We cannot see the big picture, so we doubt God’s will when circumstances arise that we don’t understand. We want to be in control of the situation. However, we are never really in control. Goes does have a plan and that plan will be fulfilled. If an obstacle arises and you feel led to act, then do so. That may be exactly what you are being called to do. Be mindful though that God may have a different plan. It may not be a plan that you like and may even be painful, but His plan is perfect, and He will lead you exactly where you are supposed to go.