Feisty robin provides life lesson

He is a thrush who inherited a rather unenviable name (Turdus migratorius) when ornithologists decided to classify him, and his voracious appetite for earthworms is not appetizing in the least. Yet his muted red breast and sizeable gray body make it easy to identify this bird as he hops atop lawns and feels for the vibrations of earthworms. He is a healthy and robust American Robin and he posted himself outside my kitchen window this week to enthusiastically watch himself, my family and our friends as we gathered to celebrate our nation’s 230th birthday.

I became aware of his presence early Tuesday morning when a rhythmic thump, thump, thump on my window pulled me away from my barbecue preparations. It was early morning and as my family slept, I had crept downstairs to begin my cooking early. I had prepared to revel in the quiet. Instead it was a strange noise sounding like something whacking a window that drew my attention away from my recipes. And there he was, belligerently standing his ground, his head cocked in confusion as I gazed back at him from inside the house.

It was the beginning of our now famous stare-downs. I look at him and he looks at me. When I step away he frequently resumes his bumping of the window. If it were not for my husband the biologist, who carries explanations about animal behavior around in his head, I might continue thinking he has simply knocked himself silly. The truth of the mater is this: Mr. Migratorius is probably an over-protective father and somewhere close is his mate, incubating a clutch of eggs.

The other truth is an even greater surprise: my window is so clean he can see himself. It is payback for me thinking that the people who were coming over might notice the window panes, in need of a cleaning, over the food and the conversation, the warm weather and the fireworks. Yet, the only being to notice my window is the poor creature who is certain he has spotted another male robin with intentions to invade his territory. This intruder must be chased off! His family is depending on it.

This primal, territorial behavior resembles a few humans I know. They cannot seem to steer clear of their own image. They have bought into the idea that all truth and strength they will ever need to live a successful life can be found inside themselves. Not only do they discount as unrealistic most everything that is invisible to the naked eye, but they whack themselves in the head, over and over again, without understanding that a radical change in course might be beneficial.

The book of Proverbs was written to help people consider divine wisdom and apply it to their lives. It is a treasure chest filled with amazingly great advice and I highly recommend a frequent reading. Written by King Solomon early in his reign, with writers Agur and Lemuel contributing later sections, Proverbs works off the understanding that while we are given gifts at birth, we do not possess all it takes to live the kind of life God envisions for us. We must look beyond ourselves for wisdom. Proverbs tells us that respecting the Lord is the truest and most faithful source.

Consider a sampling of God’s advice:

•Point your kids in the right direction — when they’re old they won’t be lost.

•Generous hands are blessed hands, because they give bread to the poor.

•God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken; good leaders also delight in their friendship.

•We justify our actions with appearances; God examines our motives.

•Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to God than religious performance.

Without God, we’re bound to fly into the same windows, over and over again. We will believe the lie that if we analyze life enough or ignore the tougher but righteous options, if we manipulate the people around us or haphazardly switch courses often enough, we will eventually happen upon the right answers.

God tells us that life is not meant to be a bumpy, horrendous ride. It is a journey filled with hope and strength, energy and victory and deep joy, if we lean not on our own understanding but include vast amount of His, as well.

And so I watch my feathered friend. He has dirtied my clean window and whitewashed the nearby barbeque. He has also reminded me of a great life lesson: we cannot trust all that we see when we do it alone. Only with God’s help can we truly fly.

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to .

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