The birds found my feeder again today.
I put up the feeder some time ago and filled it with millet and seeds and all kinds of things birds like, and I waited. I thought it might ease Niff’s boredom to watch the birds feed a bit. I promised myself I would keep the birds safe and I wouldn’t let Niff get too close, and I’ve kept my promise. She loves to watch them from inside the sliding glass door but sometimes they see her and quickly fly off in fear, not realizing she can’t get through the glass.
Now, my Niffy-cat is a mighty hunter before the Lord. Unlike many other cats, she does not utter an “attack cry” when she sees something she seriously wants; rather, she is rapid on approach, placing her paws with surgical precision, totally focused on her prey; she is sleek as a wisp of smoke and utterly, completely, deathly silent. She and I have played “stalk” around the apartment on occasion but I always have to stop before she is ready—more than once I have lifted my head to peek around a piece of furniture or a door frame and found her face bare inches away from mine, her eyes huge and black. Invariably I freak out, then I laugh…it’s a nervous laugh that springs from the surprise of fear. She is very, very good, my cat. She always seems terribly disappointed when I stop playing mouse.
So I bore this firmly in mind one recent cool spring afternoon when we temporarily hosted some unexpected guests. On my way down to the apartment office I noticed quite a few thin branches on the sidewalk under a tree close to my place; when I got closer, I realized a nest was on the ground, too. “Oh no,” I said, and stopped and looked down. Two tiny baby birds—one in the nest, one partly out of it, lay right on the cold concrete. “Poor little things,” I said, sorrowful. I looked up, but couldn’t see where the nest had been originally. It looked as if perhaps a cat had gone after the nest and the branches had broken under its weight. I looked back at the sidewalk, saddened at the loss.
Then I realized the nest was moving rhythmically. I bent closer. Both birds were breathing. They were alive!
I quickly grabbed a few Kleenex and carefully picked up the birds, nest and all. One of the chicks opened a woozy eye and examined me (for all the world as if he were saying, “What the heck just happened??”) and closed it again.
I ran my errand and dashed back to my apartment, birds in hand. I quickly put them in a box out on the balcony so Niffy wouldn’t get them, then went online.
After 10 minutes I knew I couldn’t keep them. The chicks were maybe an inch to an inch and a half in size—large marbles with fuzzy down and pinfeathers. Their black beaks were far too tiny for a syringe. If I tried to give them water, I’d kill them. I called a local wildlife rescue organization and left a message on their hotline, then I took the box and birds back downstairs and taped the box to the tree, hoping the mother might come back.
The kind woman at the wildlife rescue place recommended I bring the birds into my apartment so they wouldn’t perish from chill, but I explained that Niff would consider them lean but tasty hors d’oeuvres. After a few minutes of tossing around ideas, I agreed to take them to the emergency veterinary clinic across town.
I grabbed car keys and purse and went downstairs, cut the tape and checked on the chicks. One had crawled completely free of the nest and had pooped on the Kleenex, and curled up next to his nest-mate, who hadn’t left the nest. He looked at me again and cheeped. He seemed to have recovered somewhat from his precipitous fall. “You’re a brave one,” I murmured. “I’m taking you to someone who can take care of you. Hang in there, little ones.” I covered them carefully with a clean Kleenex to keep them warm, with enough of a “tent” so they could breathe.
I tried to avoid bumps while driving across town. (As if the nest hadn’t been bobbing and swaying in wind for days.) The brave chick started cheeping at me from under the Kleenex. I didn’t know if he was calling for his mother or just making conversation, but I spoke soothingly to him and told him he would be safe soon. He seemed to like that and after a few minutes he quieted.
The receptionist at the vet clinic was knowledgeable and sympathetic. She said they keep wild birds warm in an incubator until the wildlife rescue people come fetch them. Apparently baby birds can rally quickly if they’re not badly injured, and my two seemed to be in good shape. We chatted for awhile and, reassured, I headed home, the sun’s dying glow leading me west.
I’m a softy when it comes to just about anything living and helpless; I just can’t stand any waste of life. Life—all life—is a miracle. Each one of God’s creatures is formed with exquisite care and it is always a rare privilege to see any of them up close. (Okay, with the possible exception of scorpions, but I figure those are a product of the Fall.) I found myself thanking God that I was there just when the chicks needed me and that the wildlife rescue place was there to answer my questions and provide a place for the chicks. I thanked Him that it was a Saturday and I was home and had the time.
“Thank You, Lord,” I said. “You truly do see every sparrow fall. Or in this case, baby doves.”
I was silent for a moment as I drove through the gathering dark, and then it seemed as if He spoke quietly to me: If I provided a rescue and a home for those two baby birds, can I not also provide a rescue and a home for you, oh child of little faith? Do you have any more control over your life than those babies do? If I caught them, can I not also catch you?
I laughed softly. Of course. The enemy may prowl around me like a lion, like my cat on the stalk; the storms of this world may shake my tiny place of safety, and branches may fail; but God will catch me. He does, He has, and He will again. It may not be in the way I would like. It may not be comfortable. But He never promised me a life of comfort; He promised me Him. I am in the palm of His hand, and no one can remove me from that sacred space. My only comfort comes from staying there, close to Him. My belief or trust in anything else is what Ann Voskamp calls “practical atheism.” Either I trust God, or I don’t. There is no half-trust. There is no partial faith. And if I don’t trust God, how can I say I believe Him?
Oh, how I wish this were easy.
I cry with Thomas, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” And sometimes, that simple, passionate prayer is enough.
That night, I prayed for the birds. And I slept on the softest cushion of trust.
 Voskamp, A. (2010) One thousand gifts: A dare to live fully right where you are. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.