A tenacious robin has built a nest on the support bar of our air conditioning unit.
When my husband first saw a little pile of straw and grass on the metal bar, raw material waiting to be formed into a home, he swept it away in hopes that the bird would be encouraged to build in a less-bizarre place. Nope. Less than a week later the entire nest was in place.
“Wouldn’t a tree be better?” my husband wondered.
Apparently not. As if to punctuate her satisfaction with the living arrangement, the robin added a few orange-and-white threads to the bottom of the nest and set up shop. Every morning, as we stand in the kitchen, we can hear her singing away.
It’s a reminder that the place where our home is now once used to be undeveloped land. The wetlands and the marsh that stretch out behind our house used to be part of a much bigger area, one that spread over most of our current neighborhood. And as far as the many animals that inhabit the area are concerned, the whole place is still home – regardless of how many subdivisions and shops mushroom up.
So robins build their nests in the elbows of metal bars rather than in trees. Squirrels forage in people’s backyards for acorns. The red-winged blackbirds sway back and forth on reeds and peep directly into people’s houses. And red-tailed hawks, unperturbed by things like driveways and streets, have been known to dive for prey right in the middle of backyard play dates.
Animals are gonna animal. It’s in their nature, regardless of how things change around them.
Christians have a little bit to learn from this, I think. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are a “new creation.” The Holy Spirit dwells in us, and it’s teaching us a whole new set of instincts and desires and instilling in us a new way of thinking and being in the world. That’s what God does! In spite of us, the Spirit is a part of our nature – no matter what.
That means that Christians are gonna Christian – no matter what. Or, at least, we should. But we don’t.
In all honesty, too many of us are hothouse believers: Christians who only fully express their holy nature when the circumstances and the moment and their feelings are right. We like to live in greenhouses of perfection where events don’t conspire to make us impatient, where people don’t ask questions we can’t answer, where we’re never offended by the actions of others, where nothing unexpected ever occurs. And when we’re taken out of that greenhouse? When we’re faced with an unpredictable opportunity or a confusing set of circumstances or a problem we can’t solve? We fall apart. We revert back to our old ways.
If you’re anything like me, your prayer is often something like God, fix my circumstances rather than God, fix me regardless of my circumstances. As Christians, our hope should not be that our lives would be neat, solvable, and predictable, but rather that in the midst of whatever happens to change or occur – whether in our lives or in our country or in the world – that we would remain reliant on God and the Spirit to manifest that inner nature of love and service that we were granted through redemption.
The robin who has made a home on our air conditioner? She’s doing what robins do, what they were made to do: to fly, to eat, to build a nest. No tree? No problem. She adapted and she’s living happily, singing her heart out in a place where a robin really has no business being.
If we can embrace the attitude that God is going to be at work in us wherever we are or regardless of external circumstances, that we’re going to do what believers do no matter what’s happening around us, we’ll start to see what it means to really live according to the Spirit and not according to the world. And I like to think that means that even in the most bizarre situations, in the places where we have no business being, the world will look in – and see us singing our hearts out, too.