Spring and the Sparrow
Spring is here in Minnesota. The mountains of white snow are melting into brown puddles of mush, splashed by passing cars. Brave green grass pushes through the litter of brown leaves left buried by autumn snow. Birds chirp in the trees, and I even heard a few early frogs singing their spring tune. Signs of new life surround me, so welcome after this cold, challenging winter.
Is it spring in your life, too, friend? Whatever challenges you have been facing, you can look forward to a spring of healing. Spread your arms and your heart wide open like a child dancing shameless in the light, or a flower reaching toward the warmth and life of the sun. Like a sparrow starting a new life.
Let me tell you a story.
* * *
Three large cracks created a delicate spider web pattern over a white egg speckled with brown. The mother sparrow fluffed her wing over the egg and sang a low, soft song, “Hurry up, my Iittle one. Hurry up and come out.”
Four other little chicks crowded each other around the nest. They opened their orange beaks, far too large for their small, naked bodies, wide for food. Their loud chirping broke the silence of the cool spring morning. The mother bird pushed the last egg further from their pushing, bobbing heads.
“Have patience little ones. Have patience. Your sister is still coming.”
Another crack broke the egg. Then a small, black beak pushed its way through the hole.
“Come on out, Peasy. You can do it.” The mother bird touched her beak to the baby’s beak.
With one final push and crack, Peasy tumbled out of her egg. Even though her eyes were closed, she turned her head toward the light of the golden sun. She snuggled close to her mother’s warm feathers as she wondered at the new world she found outside this egg. Would it be like the dreams of her long sleep in the safety of her shell?
The young spring passed by in a flurry of eating and growing. Peasy’s father and mother took turns finding food and keeping their five babies warm. Peasy’s brothers and sisters made noise all day long.
“Give me the big worm!”
“Look at my new feathers! They are the softest and most beautiful in the world!”
“Look at my big, strong feet. I’ll be able to climb higher in the trees than anyone else!”
They bickered and grew fat and crowded the nest as they looked over the edge to the ground far below.
All but Peasy. She didn’t care about eating the biggest worms or having the most beautiful feathers. She loved to stare at the sky all day, watching the clouds change shape in the gentle breezes. When the clouds turned gray and opened into silver rain, Peasy opened her beak to drink in Mother Earth’s blessings while her brothers and sisters fussed over their damp feathers. It was true that the other baby sparrows were growing in beauty, while Peasy remained small and plain, but she grew in Wisdom, in understanding earth’s deep mysteries.
Peasy started each morning by chirping with the flowers that sprang up in the cheerful sunshine.
“Good morning daffodil! Good morning violet and daisy and pansy!”
“Good morning, Peasy,” they sang back. “It’s a beautiful morning! We love the darkened clouds and rain, we love the bright or dappled sun. Under the Creator’s generous bounty, we all live and love as One.”
The spring rains changed into long days of warm summer sun. The trees stretched their branches toward the sky, soaking in the light and growing strong.
“Enjoy the energy and life of summer,” the old oak tree would tell Peasy. “Grow strong, little one, for the days wiIl not be long forever. The Creator has given us our days of work and play, but also our days of rest. There are many seasons in the great cycle of life. Soon the time of darkness and rest will come.”
One hot summer afternoon, the mother bird came to the nest with a huge brown worm. “Eat up, my dears. You need energy. Today you are going to learn to fly!”
The young birds jumped from the nest one by one. They hopped in the grass and flapped their wings, excited as they lifted their bodies a few inches off the ground.
Their father went out to look for more food. Their mother kept watch nearby, but the heat of the hazy humid afternoon, and the exhaustion of raising her brood, lulled her into sleepiness. The young sparrows kept up their constant chatter.
“Look at me! I’m so big and strong!”
“I will be the most beautiful bird flying in the whole sky!”
“I will fly so fast that no one will be able to keep up with me!”
As their proud boasts rang through the sky, a red hawk lighted into a nearby tree, watching their attempts with amusement. “Hmm, one of those foolish birds would make a nice snack.”
The trees rustled their leaves as loudly as they could in warning. The young birds kept up their games, not noticing the trees or anything else outside themselves as usual.
Peasy was busy talking to a small green caterpillar. “I’m so plain, so slow, so ugly,” he whispered and shook his whiskered head. “What purpose do I serve in this world?”
“Every Creature, no matter how big or small, plain or spectacular, has a place on the earth. The Creator takes joy in all of us.” Peasy looked up at the sky. “Besides,” she said, eyes bright. “Have you ever seen a butterfly?”
Just then she noticed the rustling of the trees. “Danger, danger,” she felt their silent shouts.
She looked up just in time to see the hawk swoop down from the tree, sharp claws pointed right at her siblings. Peasy ran and spread her wings in protection over her sister. The hawk caught Peasy’s wing with his talon.
Just then thunder roared in the sky, the flash summer thunderstorm drowning out the hawk’s shriek. The clouds darkened the sky and poured humid rain as the hawk flew away to shelter.
The young birds huddled together at the base of a tree, too wet and too scared to attempt a flight back up to their nest. They put their bodies around Peasy, her wing hanging malshaped and useless at her side. They were shaking.
“Peasy, I’m sorry.”
“Peasy, are you ok?”
The thunder and commotion woke up their mother and she ran over to her brood. “Peasy, Peasy, my little baby,” she cried.
She snuggled Peasy under her soft wings and Peasy fell into a pained sleep, dreaming of hawks, danger, coldness, and cruelty in a dark world. She dreamed of ego and pain washed away, and the world restored to beauty and healing in a great flood of tears of the Creator.
Summer sun gave way to a cascade of colorful fall leaves. All of Peasy’s brothers and sisters could fly and they went off all day, exploring the sky and searching for food. Peasy’s wing hung at a sharp angle from her body, useless for flight. But as she gazed up at the clouds she could hear the whispers of the Creator. “I love you Peasy. I see your pain, and I see your sacrifice. Take joy, little one, I sent you to earth for love and you are doing a great job.”
Peasy marveled as the flowers changed around her. The dandelion heads grew furry and then bald as the wind blew their seeds to wait in the earth for the next spring.
The sunflower grew tall and its petals surrounded a new globe of black and white seeds. She said, “Peasy, I give you my seeds. Save them for a dark day.”
“Thank you, Ms. Sunflower.” Peasy gathered the seeds that fell to the ground. She found a small hole in the old oak tree where she stored the seeds.
Peasy also found a safe refuge from the cold in that oak tree as the icy hands of winter shook the leaves off the trees and cast a white blanket on the ground. Food grew scare. Peasy shared her seeds with her family. When those ran low, the sparrows began to panic. But Peasy knew that even in the snowiest, darkest winter the Father would provide.
One morning Peasy found worms in the hole. The oak shivered and sighed in the cold wind.
“Are you ok, Mr. Tree?” Peasy chirped.
“Yes, Peasy, my days have been long and my body grows old. My spirit is ready to fly and be free.”
Peasy bowed her head in reverence and sadness.
“Peasy, don’t be troubled. The all-wise Creator has created this cycle of life and rebirth for all. There is joy to be found in even the darkest of realms, but I have lived my fullness and I am ready to see the kingdom.”
The tree breathed out his spirit and Peasy was filled with a strange warmth. ”Thank you, great teacher. I’ll see you again someday, ” she whispered.
The worms multiplied and kept Peasy and her family fed until the spring sun dawned once again on a new crop of life.
Has the cruelty of the world broken your wings and dreams? Just remember that no matter how long the winter seems to drag on, no matter the pain and heartache of this realm, spring’s sun is only a breath away, and the Creator always holds you in loving hands.
New International Version (NIV)
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.