hope, like feathers

Robin eggsI watched the robins closely; a perfect pair perched motionless on the lawn one unreasonably chilly morning. The bright sunshine was saturating their brown-feathered backs. I appreciated their strategy, relishing the rays penetrating the windowpane.

We have been on the look-out for the robins, a hopeful sign that spring will settle in to stay. Earlier in the week, our youngest grand-girl hit the jackpot, spotting a robin with dry grass trailing from its beak. “GiGi! GiGi! Bird!” Now we were on the prowl for their nesting site. 

They select the most inconvenient location, like the shrub near our front door. After nesting, they scold us for trespassing. Good grief. I hoped to encourage a more agreeable address this year. With a bit of patience, I might gain a clue.  

Suddenly, a blur formed in my peripheral vision. Wham! A Cooper’s hawk in a steep dive struck like a bullet. Did he hit the bullseye? I couldn’t tell. The hawk stood almost motionless for a few minutes. Then he took flight, ominous debris fluttering on his flight path to the cornfield.

The hawk’s surprise attack struck a nerve and it’s no wonder.

COVID-19 is only the latest on a string of surprise attacks. My family is still recovering from the 2018 barn fire, ever more heavily invested in a free-falling dairy economy. My retirement portfolio plummets as the pandemic takes its toll. I’ve struggled to set a direction for Career 4.0, spinning in the swirl of circumstances. Now socially-distanced and sheltered-in-place, I feel as vulnerable as a small bird. 

I hurried out to inspect the crime scene. A delicate pile of burnt-red and gray feathers on the grass confirmed my fear. I felt sad for the robin as if a new friend.

I thought about that robin all day and the next. I replayed the way that hawk came out of nowhere, on a mission to destroy. The way the robin was caught unaware and defenseless. The way its mate fled in a panic. Then the way it called from the treetop in a lonely melody — or so it sounded to me. 

A simple thought fell like a whisper midst my musings; a deposit of hope that settled peacefully. “I know about the robin. I know about you, too.” 

That’s how I came to find hope, not despair, in a pile of pretty feathers.

I recalled that Jesus spoke of small birds as precious in God’s sight. He said even the lowliest feathered friends were under His care, without a worry in the world. Our Heavenly Father takes note when each one, like my robin friend, falls. 

Jesus said there will always be trouble in this world. He promised peace as turmoil swirls. I’ve discovered perfect peace is found in the One who knows me best. God draws near as I read and meditate on Scripture, talk to Him, and listen for the quiet response of His Spirit. He settles my heart and stills my mind until peace prevails.

Perhaps you’ve struggled with fear, anxiety, or depression. Maybe you’ve lost a job or financial security, or you’re fending off bill collectors. You might be in crisis-management mode, responsible for others’ lives and well-being, or grieving a loss to this vile virus. If so, I’m so very sorry for your troubles.

Even so, I bring good news. God’s loving care for us extends far beyond that for the smallest of birds. We have a ready Friend in times of trouble. His promises are so much more than a hopeful thought.


C.f. Psalm 46; Matthew 6:26Matthew 10:29-31John 16:331 Peter 5:6-9

Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all    (read more)