Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Wages of Sin Are: Empty Feeders

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the deer who came and raided my feeders.  I have not refilled them, for I was angry at the deer and didn't want to encourage them to forage at my feeders.  I didn't want the mama deer to teach their young ones bad habits.  The feeders are easy to get to and are probably far more temptingly tasty than that nasty late-winter grass. 

I have not refilled the feeders now for at least two weeks.  No more deer...'tis true.  But my daily round of bird visitors has ceased as well.  No more sparrows, finches and now only an occasional mourning dove shows up and takes shelter under the Russian olive tree. 

Usually, the smaller birds, as they are eating out of the feeders, spill quite a bit of seed on the ground and rocks beneath.  The smaller birds eat in the morning, and by the time the sun rises higher in the sky, the little birds depart.  I suspect that in the shadows, the wee birds feel safe; as soon as the sunlight illuminates the area, they are so much more vulnerable to the hawks who fly overhead, ready to swoop down.  The doves wait patiently, and in the afternoons, they nibble at all of the fallen seed and then roost quietly under the Russian olive tree.

It's a nice community:  a ready "table" spread before the birds and all benefit...except when the deer intrude.  Then, because it's detrimental to feed the deer, I haven't refilled the feeders and my community has ceased to be.  I miss my morning visitors and my late afternoon guests...all activity has stopped and now the feeders sway in the wind with an occasional visit from a miffed magpie, who is wondering where all the bounty went.

This wee drama has provided me a kind of meditation on sin.   I openly and freely fill up my feeders...I do not charge for a "lunch" and so my gift is truly free.  I actively and consistently fill them up and feel badly when they are empty and a little bird perches on the feeder to no avail.  I was angry at the deer, but now the emptiness around the feeders makes me long for all of that frantic activity with goldfinches, sparrows, juncos, finches and doves all enjoying the bounty.  Yes, the occasional hawk shows up, but the little birds seem to take a predator's presence all in stride.  It's just part of the scene.

So, this made me think of our heavenly Father.  He is angry at the deer of sin...they destroy His creation, and cause grief to all.  They knock His beautiful gifts about and when finished, leave without any remorse, on the hunt for new grazing.  God loves us too much to tolerate sin's presence, so He allows His heavy hand to fall on us--He sometimes leaves the feeders empty for awhile. 

But, I am sure that He misses the joyful sound that comes from when His children are laughing and enjoying the fellowship of His bounty, with Him and with each other.  So, the silence of sin leaves Him no choice:  His chastening hand is withdrawn and He refills our feeders:  "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22-3).  He forgives us, for He "knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14).

He takes sin very seriously.  But:  "for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor"  (Isaiah 61:3).  God was comforting His people, for although they had sinned and were feeling results of His displeasure, the restoration was promised and granted.  The same holds true for us.

As Easter approaches, we can take into our hearts two great truths:  God is holy and cannot abide the presence of sin and He is also loving, and gave His own Son to pay for that restore us and to bring us back into His fellowship that sin had destroyed.  After we accept this free gift, He welcomes us back. 

Tomorrow morning:  the first thing I will do (actually the second thing, right after making a cup of tea) is to refill the feeders.  I look forward to the return of the wee birdies...Restoration is a beautiful thing.


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