Friday, August 19, 2016

How Do You Find a Nest?

How many of you have ever had a bird problem? Or maybe you don’t see it as a problem, but all I know is I am not fond of them. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful to look at. But it’s better to have them at least at a little bit of a distance. They’re messing things, and you don’t want them nesting in your stuff.

That’s what we had this spring, though. Sparrows mostly, I think. It was an annoying few weeks. They kept building nests under our porch and leaving, shall we say, telltale signs that they were resting for a moment or two on our deck furniture. Every day we would take down the nests, hoping to get them to pick a new spot before laying eggs. Then we’d hose off the affected areas. A few hours later, though, they would be at it again in the same spot. They refuse to take a hint.

Looking for Nests

There’s a lesson in that, but something else proved even more memorable. Right when the season got started, we began to notice greater bird activity outside our back door. I went to investigate, assuming I would find a nest in need of being taken down. But when I went to where I thought they were coming from, I couldn’t find one. I looked around for a little while, and then gave up, thinking I must have scared them away before they began building.

Just as I was about to turn away, though, I noticed something: a couple small pieces of straw on the ground under the spot where we hang our garden hose. And sure enough, when I looked up, there was the nest on top of the coil.

Unremarkable in and of itself. Birds had built there before. That was what made it stick, though. I knew that before I found it. I also, a few moments before, had been looking at the hose, which is almost on a level with my line of sight. But even though I was looking for a bird’s nest, and even though I had found them there before, and even though it was right in my view, I had missed it. I only found it because of a small clue I barely noticed in the periphery of my sight.

Looking for God

This is a clear statement of my observational skills (or lack thereof). It illustrates a valuable spiritual truth, though. We all, in various ways, look for God. Sometimes, however, we have trouble finding Him. It is as true for people who do believe in Him as it is for those who don’t. The difference lies in seeking the signs.

God does not appear immediately in front of us. He does not use skywriting to send us messages. But He does make Himself known. We can find Him in the sense of awe a sunset inspires. When prayers are answered, we experience His care. He is present in the need we feel for forgiveness, and in the peace and joy that come from receiving it.

Signs to God

To many people, these things are not signs at all. They don’t point to God. They are simply mundane, things we all experience. God is just one way to explain them, and in their opinion, He is a superstitious and antiquated way to do so. The Christian God is merely a particular version of the general human tendency to try to make sense of the universe. Every other way is at least as valid, and coming to recognize it as a purely natural phenomenon is best.

There are problems with this view, though. Yes, things like joy, peace, guilt, comfort, and wonder are mundane. They can be experienced by anyone of any worldview. But what they cannot be, is accidental. A random universe could not teach us how to tell a good thing from a bad thing, and a utilitarian evolution could not teach us how to appreciate things simply for themselves. A world made by chaos could not produce order, which is to say, reliability. It also cannot have brought itself into being.

The Sign of Creation

These are the straws that point to what we seek. And in the end, they are just as obvious as the nest. As Paul puts it in Romans 1:19, 20, “What may be known of God is manifest in [mankind], for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” The fullness of God may not be visible to our eyes, but the fact that we see anything is proof He is there. The sky is full of messages, after all, in the presence of the clouds, the sun, the moon, and the stars.

The very existence of creation is a miracle of such a high order that the existence of God is the only rational way to explain them. No matter how far back in time you go, how deep into space, how small into the atom, a point is reached past which the universe cannot be its own source. It all has a cause, a cause outside itself, a cause that chose to act to bring it into being. God can be known to exist on that basis alone.

In the end, nothing could be more obvious. It is simply easy to miss because people do not focus. Our sight is obscured not by evidence, but by a desire to avoid it so we can go on living as we please. But if we make the effort to look more closely, we can find what is right in front of us.

The Sign of the Cross

Of course, that only gets us as far as the existence of God. It does not tell us how to choose between all the different versions of Him that human cultures present. That, thankfully, has also been answered. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually occurred, then He must be God. That would be the only logical conclusion. Anything in contradiction to the faith He inaugurated would then be a lie about God, by definition, because it would be contradicting Jesus. And the truth of His resurrection is beyond question, once the evidence is considered.

 I encourage you to do so. As one brief example, consider the New Testament. Christians do not believe Jesus is alive because the Bible says so. They believe the Bible because Jesus’ resurrection is the only explanation for why the New Testament would be written. If they had not seen, heard, and touched Jesus again, His disciples would have had no reason to proclaim His gospel. His message had rested in Himself, and if He was dead, it meant nothing. Also, they would have been too afraid to go on teaching it. But because He lives, they carried it on. When the facts are carefully and honestly reviewed, that is the only conclusion. And as in the very existence of God, the resurrection could not be more obvious. Once you track back to it from its signs, it becomes clear.

Remembering the Signs

To Christians, these truths are obvious. And yet, we still struggle at times to find God. The cares of this life obscure our sight, and we begin to wonder if He is there for us. The best thing we can do in those times is to look to those signs that led us to Him in the first place. Memory is the key for us. Remember what God has done, and it will point you to what He is still doing. We have it as a firm foundation when we feel like falling, a light to follow in the midst of darkness. When we remember, when we look for just the smallest signal of the Lord’s care, we find it. And then we see He has always been there. He is right in front of us, just waiting to be found again. Be thankful for the little things that point us in the right direction.

This process is always ongoing. We constantly lose sight of the truth, whether because of willfulness or worry. But it can be found. Try to keep your eyes open, look for what you can see and discover where it leads you. Find the straws, and you will find the nest. Then, work to remember what you found. Learn from it so you will be ready the next time you have to search. I know where I will be checking first next spring. We can know where to check for God, too. He is always in the same place, yesterday, today, and forever. 

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