I woke up last Friday morning to a lot of noise.
Banging. Scuffling. Scratches and thuds. “Stop that,” I said vaguely to the hallway, assuming my cat was responsible, and went for coffee. But when I came back upstairs, the din hadn’t stopped – and my alarmed cat was prowling the laundry room.
The sounds seemed to be coming from my dryer vent. “Um,” I texted my husband, “I am pretty sure there is something alive in our house somewhere.” After some quick research, the Internet offered me an answer: “Bird in the vent.” My husband, my parents, and his parents agreed. Unfortunately, the laundry vent in our house is difficult to access – and we weren’t sure it was a trapped bird instead of, say, a bat or a squirrel or who knows what else – so we elected to call a local wildlife management company.
They’d be out on Monday, they said. Until then, hold tight and hope the bird finds its way out.
The bird did not find its way out. On Saturday and on Sunday my husband and I were treated to periods of quiet interrupted by the frantic scuffling, scratching, and banging that had become all too familiar. My cat stalked the laundry room for two days straight with crazed eyes. And then on Monday, the day the company was supposed to arrive: complete and continued silence.
My husband and I exchanged glances. I tapped on the dryer. Nothing. And when the wildlife guy came, he confirmed our fears: the poor bird had managed to run from our vent into the back of our dryer and had died. “Don’t worry,” he said cheerfully, “this is pretty easy compared to some of what I deal with.” The bird in question was a European starling, he told us, “an invasive species. And stupid, man oh man. All it had to do was turn back around, but oh well.”
I’m not a fan of starlings in general, I’ll admit, and yet I felt an odd pang for the foolish little bird. I comforted myself with the knowledge that at least I now had a squeaky-clean dryer vent – and a new, very useful cap over the top of it – and was heading into the rest of my routine when I heard the voice of God clear as day:
I was there. I saw.
Starlings are common birds. So were many birds mentioned in the Bible. Though the Scriptural word for bird is often translated as “sparrow,” in a broader sense it denotes garden-variety birds: the sort that visit houses and gardens and are found nearly everywhere. The sort, one would imagine, that accidentally flies into dryer vents. Sold two for a penny, they seemed to have no great significance. And even so, in Matthew 10:29:
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
In May of 2017 in a garden-variety suburb in a garden-variety state in America, a country which contains 321 million people, in a world which contains around 7 billion people, a starling died in a dryer vent and God noticed.
I have read that verse a thousand times before now, but it never hit as close to me as it did on Monday: the thought that an absurd little creature’s death would somehow be heeded and within the realm of details that God Himself would acknowledge. And knowing that, the rest of the verse resonates even more strongly:
…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
It’s easy to equate power and authority with distance. The Pope is a powerful authority in the Roman Catholic faith; he does not, and cannot, know all of the adherents of the faith by name. It is highly likely that your governor has absolutely no idea who you are or what you care about. The celebrity who autographed your t-shirt with that sincere witticism cannot now remember what your face looks like or even where he encountered you or even that he encountered you at all.
But here we serve a God far more immense and powerful than any authority we could ever comprehend, and He yet remembers the most insignificant details. There is nothing, literally nothing, that escapes His attention. The struggle of a little bird in a dryer did not go unheeded under His eye. And if that’s the case, then really, how can we wonder what it means for us to be loved in such a way?
Here’s a secret about the way I read that verse: I imagine Jesus saying it with a smile. “Don’t be afraid,” he says, and pauses, and his lips quirk into a grin. “You are worth more than many sparrows.” Because He knows how silly it is that we should wonder at all, and He more than anyone knows what an understatement it is: to God, we are not just worth more than many sparrows. We are worth the sacrifice, and what will come, in spite of not really being worth it at all.
Wherever you are, God’s there. He sees.
You matter very much.