I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a housetop. Psalm 102:7
For the first time since we planted it three years ago, we are enjoying fresh-picked nectarines from our backyard tree. It’s taken long enough, eh? The problem isn’t that the tree didn’t produce, but there were always issues. Did you know snails love nectarines? I didn’t. They slimed their way up the trunk and took out the small crop the first year.
Now birds eating fruit—yeah, that I did know. So we’ve been netting the tree. Netting isn’t precise, though. Since the tree has changed shape since it began bearing fruit—the branches are heavier—there are gaps in the net. Lately, I get up in the morning, and before I even make a cup of tea, I shoo a flock of thrushes away from the tree before I readjust the net, and if I’m lucky, I can get to a ripe nectarine before they had a chance to nibble the best parts.
Little wonder there are so many parables about bearing fruit. And robbers.
|Swainson's Thrush, a possible culprit! From wikipedia.com|
But when it comes to spiritual matters, emotional matters, these little birds have captured my attention. They do everything together. They zip around the tree together. Flee together. Watch me with their beady little eyes together. I envy their sense of belonging to a mini-flock. They’re buddies. A team.
But not all birds of a feather stick together. People sure don’t. If you’ve ever parented a pre-teenager, or been one yourself, you’ll remember how difficult it can be to find a team, a buddy, a gang, a group. And it doesn’t always get easier when we grow up. We start new jobs, take classes, move to new areas, and visit churches. All places that are full of people. And surrounded by folks, we can feel utterly alone.
We all have ways of coping with loneliness. We stay in, to nurse the pain or to avoid going out by ourselves. We go out, hoping to make new friends, and sometimes it works.
We are blessed to have a Lord who Himself felt rejected, misunderstood and despised. When we feel lonely, we can come to Him and share our feelings. He doesn’t want us to be lonely.
But I think God would have us do more about the lonely birds He’s placed around us.
How so? Well, many of us have friends, so we don’t feel the need to make new ones. We enjoy our bubble of fellowship … and there’s nothing wrong with comfortable friendships. Thank God for true friends who know us and love us anyway!
But does that mean we should stop seeking, stop being available to others?
One woman I spoke to recently is new in her community and church. She has become acquainted with several women whose children are of similar ages to hers. Last week, she shared with the women how she’d like to be more involved and make friends, and they referred her to a networking website. What this woman really wanted, however, was to to get to know them! Instead, she felt as if she was unworthy of her Christian sisters’ time.
I would argue that this attitude is unhelpful in making others feel welcome—and it might even be anti-evangelical or self-centered.
The Psalmist’s symptoms of loneliness are physical as well as emotional: insomnia, tears, loss of appetite. True suffering.
Watch for someone who might be suffering from the loneliness that you sometimes feel. You never know. At worst, you’ll be doing something grand in easing someone’s burden –with a smile or a lunch out or a quick note.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll be two birds of a feather.