Posted by: William | December 9, 2007

Bird by Bird

            I just began reading a book on writing fiction, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. So far, the book is enjoyable, Ms. Lamott makes reading about a usually kind of dry subject really entertaining. That of course is not the point of this post though. I wanted to share a quote with you from the book. The quote is contextually referring to writing, but I think there’s more to it than that.

            “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family’s cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then, my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ ”

            This story stood out to me. Besides being the title story of the book, and a great illustration of only taking tasks one step at a time, it also has some great spiritual implications. I think about the Virgin Mary, and how she was visited by the Angel of the Lord who announced the coming Christ Jesus; she could only give the Lord her “yes.” She was uncertain of what it might mean for her life, except that it would certainly mean something, but all that she could really do was give the Lord her “yes,” to whatever He would bring, and wait faithfully for further instruction. Abram (soon to be Abraham) also, in Genesis 12, the Lord calls him out of his home and into the land which He would show him. Abram had faith, so he gave the Lord his “yes,” and began to walk foreword, one step at a time, constantly waiting for the Lord’s next order.

            I think in our walks with the Lord today it is not different from this. If we step back and look at the hugeness of our sin and how far away we are from where we “ought” to be, it can become overwhelming. Crippling even. But when we stop and reduce our field of view down to just tiny bite size pieces, our faith has the chance to be encouraged; worry and doubt has little room to elbow around.

            I am continually finding this to be particularly true in my own life. If I would just stop focusing on the length of the race, and instead only on lifting my foot to take the next stride, there is always energy to take that stride. It’s when I look at the whole thing that I run out of breath. In the desert, the Lord only provided manna for one day at a time. Every day, the Lord would provide only enough manna for that single day. I think in the same way, the Lord provides us with energy and faith, but only for one step at a time. If only we could just give the Lord our “yes,” and then take one single step, trusting that He would place ground beneath our falling feet.


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