In our new house, the glass doors in the living room look out on a local wetland area bordered by trees and thick with tall grass. Rabbits lurk and nibble at the edges; deer parade through unconcerned in the fall and the spring; a few weeks ago I saw an extraordinarily fat raccoon rambling through.
Oh, and there are birds.
So many birds. I see more in a day than I can properly identify, but two of my favorites are the American goldfinches and the orioles. I’m fond of the orioles especially as they were one of the first birds I learned to identify: velvety-black, with a splash of orange wing that appears whenever they take flight. I’ve even learned to recognize their various songs.
The problem is that, along with the smaller birds – and the rabbits, and the deer, and the raccoons – we have hawks, too. I actually love hawks and hawk-watching – spotting them and watching them fly is a pastime of mine – but they are most definitely predators. I can only imagine that our little wetland area is a feast for them, and so they show up frequently, circling in the way that hawks do, wings spread wide. Whenever they start to swoop I turn away.
But the other day at dinner my husband and I glimpsed something that made us laugh out loud. We saw a familiar shadow on the ground, and when we finally glanced up to the sky the hawk was there, circling in slow loops over the wetland area and edging toward the trees. He dipped toward the branches, then pulled away to circle the wetland once more. He dipped toward the branches twice, then three times – and the third time came flying away from the trees like someone had set him on fire, beating his wings against the wind as he followed a straight line to safety.
“What’s he running from?” my husband wondered. And then, behind him, we saw the source of his urgency: seven or eight little orioles.
The entire group of birds would have made no more than a snack for that hawk, but somehow their combined furor and beating wings were enough to drive him off. They flew at his tail in an angry little mob, a few others joining the chase as they went. I suppose they were protecting their nests; either way, the presence of the hawk was not welcome, and it was an absurd and hilarious sight to see those tiny birds send an enormous predator running for his life.
Christians could take a few lessons from those tenacious little orioles, and one of them is this: it’s okay to try something absurd. Do the thing that doesn’t seem like it will work, but that you feel called nonetheless to do. Aim higher than reason allows.
If we don’t, how will we ever see the ways in which God can and will work beyond our capacity?
We tend to adjust our expectations to our circumstances. Oh, we say, I don’t have one hundred percent of the skills required for that job, even though I think God would have called me to that company otherwise. Or, like Moses, I’m not fit for ministry – I’m terrible at public speaking! Or you know, I’ve looked at the other sorts of writers and artists who get published and make a living on their work, and I just don’t know if I fit in.
To you I, and the orioles, say: so?
When I was first trying to figure out where to go for college, I felt called heavily to attend a certain university. I didn’t know quite why I felt called, just that I did. During the admissions process, I met some fantastic Christians there – in spite of the fact that it was a secular university – and it felt like home. But I couldn’t attend college without a full scholarship, and the ACT exam requirements for this university’s scholarship were incredibly high. My ACT score missed the minimum by one point. I retested. I was still a point too low. Stupid math section.
Reality: I don’t meet the standards, so there’s no point in trying. In fact, it was made quite clear in the materials that there was no point in applying if you couldn’t meet the standards. But my mother said, “If God wants you to go, He’ll figure it out,” and she encouraged me to send the application in anyway. I did. Imagine my shock months later when I received a call for an interview and learned, for the first time, that the minimum ACT score for the scholarship had shifted down two points. Unbelievable.
But God works in unbelievable. God lives in unbelievable. Faith is not the hope of things that we figure will probably happen, anyway; faith is believing God is going to do something wild and extravagant with something meager. Faith is saying, “well, I’m only going to make it halfway, but if God wants to get me there, He’ll get me there.”
I’m not saying you should go jump in front of a bus exhibiting faith that God will save you from getting flattened, but rather that in those instances that you feel a yes but – “yes I’m called to do this, but” or “yes this is perfect, but” or “if only this could happen, but” – you should make the leap when you can. If a tiny crew of orioles can chase off a giant hawk, then surely with God’s help nothing is beyond your reach.
That dream you have? Don’t let go of it. I don’t care how unrealistic it seems. If God wants it to happen, He can make it happen. We are mighty indeed when we step forward in faith.