About two months ago, we noticed a house finch making a nest in the hanging planter on our front porch. Didn’t seem like a smart move to me because it’s right in front of a window that our kids love to look through every morning (and every time they come up and down the stairs). And at night, our porch light never goes off. It’s really not the best choice in lodging, in my opinion. But what do I know? I’m not a bird.
Momma Bird was always a little skittish and almost always flew away whenever she heard us coming. But it wasn’t long until we started to see some eggs appear in the nest. First there were two. Then five. Then one more. Six eggs. And Momma Bird wasn’t leaving the nest quite as frequently. She’d sit there calmly. Maybe she’d gotten used to us.
Or maybe she had a purpose that kept her grounded even when she wanted to leave.
Pretty soon we were seeing little wet heads and beaks along side their soon-to-hatch brothers and sisters. Poppa Bird was coming around now, too. Bringing food. Checking the nest. And making sure everybody was safe.
We watched as the weeks produced more feathers and voices, especially when Poppa Bird was sitting on the edge with some food. Everyday, he’d come. Usually early in the morning. Give them their food for the day, chirp back and forth with them, and then sit there until he saw me or until I got too eager and tried to go outside and see if I could get a better look. He didn’t trust me.
I get that. I don’t trust Life. It’s too unpredictable.
I’m constantly running through escape procedures in my head about how I’d get my family out of harms way. I’ve come up with some really dreadful events that would require these but it’s good to have a plan for, let’s say… when zombies come in through the fireplace, right?
I think about it a lot. How to protect my family. More than I probably realize and certainly more than I admit. But I have to be sure they’re safe, out of harm’s way, and prepared for a fruitful, meaningful, long, fulfilling life with a family of their own.
But I can’t always protect them. And I can’t leave them in the nest. I have to show them the way.
Poppa Bird has been coming around pretty often and Momma Bird is only very rarely seen. For practical reasons, the babies are growing and they need their space. They are literally laying on top of each other fighting for daylight. But maybe the bigger reason is this… all her nurturing to get them to this place is finished. Now they need to fly. Any of the comfort or care that only she can give must be done “Out There.”
I know a bunch of moms right now who are about to have a panic attack, my wife included. Baby, it stresses me out, too. They grow too fast. They need their space. And one day, our hands-on nurturing and providing slows. to. a. stop. They move away to college. They go on adventures in foreign countries with other newly-fledged companions. They call home on occasion. They bring their laundry (if you’re lucky). And then they’re gone.
I don’t know how that’s gonna wreck me, but it’s gonna hit me hard in about eight years. And then it’s gonna hit me over and over again until our last child moves away. I’ll never forget the sight of my mom’s shoulders slumping over the dishes the moment I told her I was moving away after high school. She stood silently and I could see her shaking as she tried to cry without me seeing. I felt so guilty for delivering the news. But I knew it was my time to go on an adventure and learn my way around the “Out There.”
Yesterday was the last day for the last two birds. Poppa Bird was there as he was for each of them as they took their first flight. He’d perch on the edge of the basket. Fly down to the sidewalk. Look up to the nest. Chirp up to the waiting fledgling, “Come on. It’s okay. You can do it,” or something like that. Keep his eyes on his little one as he watched him fly away.
It was a proud moment and friggin scary moment all wrapped into one. And I was only a human watching some birds. I don’t want to think about what it will be when those are my kids. My oldest is 10. We’re talking about eight years maybe before he drives away to college. My youngest is 4. And as God brings other babies to us, my worry and fretting will only continue, maybe until the day I die. I knew this day would come for the Finch family and I know it will come for us as well. The “Out There” is not an easy place to maneuver. But these babies are not ours to begin with. They belong to the world; placed here for a purpose, laid out before the world was made. And our Father will keep them even when we can’t. God help us parent them well.
John 14:18-27, Matt. 10:30-31