Bird Brain: Lessons in Self-Control

Recently I added a clear suction-mount bird feeder to my living room window. I primarily fill it with the fruit that my kids drop on the floor (whole packages sometimes!) or pieces of food they don’t eat.

So far I have only seen one mockingbird visit it. But it visits it often. I have learned it loves blueberries, reluctantly eats bread (when it’s the only option), enjoys raspberries, and avoids grape tomatoes and apple bits.

But mostly I’ve learned that this mockingbird is a great example of how to live.

It has impressed me with its self-control. When it visits the feeder it selects just one piece and flies away. It might return several times throughout the day, but each time it takes just one bit and then leaves.

God has designed nature in such complex and intricate ways! The mockingbird does not seem to be greedy. It does not seem to be possessive. It does not worry about eating as though it may never eat again. It seems to appreciate that it found a bit of food and that that one bit is exactly what it needs and so it is satisfied.

Perhaps I am projecting more onto this bird than this bird is truly doing. But it did make me pause and think about how different I am from this bird — not in the obvious “well, umm it’s a bird” ways but in a spiritual way.

I was reminded of Matthew 6: 25-34

Matthew 6: 25-34
Dependence on God.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides.
34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Now I am blessed to not have daily worries about what to eat, drink, or wear, but I can still be plenty anxious about these things in unhealthy ways. I seek to own. I seek to possess. I seek to store up these things so that I never worry. I am greedy today so that I take care of tomorrow.

I have so little self-control in trusting that God will provide tomorrow that I waltz thru life buying, owning, seeking to possess. “If I have it then I have it.” I don’t leave things to chance. When given a buffet I call it “mine” and gorge on the entire buffet rather than just nibbling, taking only what is necessary for the moment. I forget that nothing is my own; everything’s a gift.

I am reminded too of the rich fool who sought to store up treasures on earth. (And funny thing, while looking up the verses to copy-paste here the surrounding two parables were also applicable — a little nudge from God reminding me of how to live).

Luke 12: 13-34

Saying Against Greed.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Parable of the Rich Fool.
16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods
19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Dependence on God.
22 l He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.
23 For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.
24 Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!
25 Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?
26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
27 Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.
28 If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
29 As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore.
30 All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

How much can I learn from this mockingbird I wonder? I can learn how to approach each day as the gift it is and not worry about possessing. I do not need to store up earthly treasures. I need to practice self-control. I need to trust that God will always provide. What a beautiful reminder God gifts me every time the mockingbird visits!

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