My neighbor and longtime friend, Dewel Lawrence, sent me an email in early May about hummingbirds. He had been watching a backyard feeder which his wife, Becky, had filled with sugar water. The earlier spring menu included nectar filled blooms of red and white azaleas on the banks of a lovely pond. Their big yard is like a buffet line in hummingbird heaven.
During this troubling coronavirus pandemic, Dewel found inspiration through the hardiness of those tiny birds. He said hummingbirds spend the winter in Mexico and Central America, then travel 500 miles north as they return to their hatching sites. I don’t understand how a thumb-sized bird as light as a penny can do that. Miraculous is a word that seems appropriate.
Seeing those hummingbirds reminded Dewel of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus assured his followers there’s no need to worry. In verses 26-27 (NIV) he said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
It’s funny how the mention of something can uncover almost buried memories. As I read Dewel’s email it took me back to childhood, to the home where my mother’s parents lived in Pulaski County. Grandmama Hill loved to host big family dinners and we all loved being there. We often visited in the gray wooden rocking chairs on their screened porch which had azaleas on three sides.
Grandmama had a lot of azaleas, several crepe myrtles, and a grancy greybeard, the only one I knew of at the time. Nothing but a dirt driveway separated her porch from an enchanting head of woods with a spring-fed stream. It was a popular venue for hummingbirds’ summer vacations.
As I would watch those birds from her porch it amazed me how fast they beat their wings, how they darted, hovered, and even flew backwards. Billions of dollars have been spent developing today’s magnificent assortment of flying machines. Yet man’s technology is no match for the hummingbird. Creation in all its glory can never equal the Creator.
As I reflected on the marvels of hummingbirds, another occasion from long ago came to mind. Jane and I, plus our three children, were living on DeLiesseline Drive in Vienna. Our backyard swimming pool was enclosed by a fence which was covered in red honeysuckle and Carolina Jasmine. We were rewarded each spring for planting those flowering vines by the visits of countless hummingbirds.
One family member, however, treated those little birds rather poorly. Our solid white cat, Sugar, spent hours patiently stalking her prey. We’d distract her or squirt her with the water hose when possible. She had minimal success in her hunts for which we were glad.
But there was one memorable day when a hummingbird hovered too low for too long. When I tried to approach, Sugar scampered away with the bird held firmly in her mouth. I felt sorry for the helpless creature, but I knew not to blame Sugar. She was just doing what cats are born to do. I gave her a light scolding and suggested she might find blue jays more filling.
Cats don’t usually kill their prey humanely. It’s more about the game than the meal. They wound their victims enough to slow them down, then release the poor things so they can enjoy capturing them again. That’s what Sugar did with that hummingbird. I watched helplessly as she held that bird in her mouth, then dropped its motionless body on the ground between her paws. She poked it lightly, hoping it would try to escape, but the bird showed no sign of life. Then in a moment which surprised Sugar as much as me, that tiny hummingbird flitted its wings and soared to safety.
I don’t know if God intervenes in matters of that sort. I used to think that wasn’t the case, but now I’m not so sure. What I do know is that a friend’s email reminded me of a hummingbird that survived what seemed a hopeless situation. The timing of his reminder is a blessing which I consider divine.
Jesus said there’s no need to worry, that our heavenly Father who provides for the birds will surely take care of His children. I can’t truthfully claim I never worry, but I can say with gratitude that my worries are tempered by faith. For my faith is in a loving Creator, because I know I am His child.