Spring, as its name implies, is that season where life is popping out all over. Daily we are treated to an overwhelming contradiction of winter, an almost reckless assertion of life and renewal, an unbridled exertion of energy. Everything is waking up and making up for lost time. Streams swell and run faster. The starved brown twigs of deciduous trees and shrubs get plump and ultimately burst with color. Birds sing, flit about and appear to be working off the pent up energy stored during winter. Everywhere there are invitations to ponder nature’s ritual of renewal.
This spring, a couple of robins nesting in the trees near our house have become one of those invitations to me. As I sit at my desk I am daily entertained, and at times infuriated, by these robins which seem to be looking for a way to fly through our front windows. The ritual has been painfully repeated every day for the last four or five weeks. A robin perches for a moment on the balcony rail opposite the window, takes off toward the window, hits the glass, bounces off, hovers, readdresses the glass tapping it several times, and failing to get through ultimately flies away, only to return a few minutes later to try again.
After these many weeks of trying, I can report that the robins have still not gotten inside our house. From my perspective the only thing they have accomplished is the soiling of our front windows. To me their behavior is senseless, and their capacity to learn nonexistent. And my most common response to their tapping on our windows is: “Stupid birds!” I would imagine that an ornithologist could enlighten me about bird behavior and specifically why it is only the robins which have a fascination with our front windows, but for the time being the robins are for me a metaphor of what it means to be “thoughtless.”
The robins may not be learning anything, but they are teaching me. The robin’s repeated, futile attempts have become for me an image of what happens when we human beings live an unconsidered life. To succumb to thoughtlessness is to live without memory or anticipation. It is to repeatedly choose to allow impulse to be the primary arbiter of our behavior. It is the failure to take the time to sit before and consider a question before we choose to respond to it. To be thoughtless is to be reactive without first being reflective. And when this is our choice, we usually succumb to the tragedy of repeating our past mistakes and sometimes doing damage to others that thoughtfulness could have helped us to avoid.
Nature is full of invitations to step back and think about our lives, to sit before a question before we respond to it. Jesus’ invitation to “consider the lilies” (Matthew 6:28) comes to mind. With this phrase he invites us to reflect on why we toil so hard to attain things that will not last, or fix our imaginations on things that are ultimately too small energize us. He invites us to think about our past and dream about our future and so set our lives in a context that is bigger than the one we create for ourselves.
Consider the lilies. Choose thoughtfulness. It may slow us down a bit; but it also might also plant a small seed that grows into a big tree. God is in the business of accomplishing things that are greater than we can imagine. What might happen if we took a moment to consider something bigger than our initial reaction or ponder what would normally never enter our minds? Instead of perpetuating what has always been, we might actually find ourselves participating in a miracle of new life.
Dave Rohrer, April 23, 2017