Who would have imagined a bird with a broken beak would send me on a journey of learning about love?
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.1 Corinthians 8:13
What Happens When a Bird with a Broken Beak Shows Up at the Feeders?
The excited chatter turned to an angry buzz, and I hopped out of my chair to see what caused the commotion. Tail spread and wings beating furiously, a female Rufous hummingbird stabbed her beak into the neck of a Black-chinned hummingbird peacefully perched at the feeder hanging outside my window.
Only the hummingbirds seem to understand their unwritten rules of engagement. If fewer than eight hummers vie for space, a grumpy, territorial Rufous can easily keep everyone else away. Not because it wants nectar—simply because it can.
When the community grows during migration, a strange thing happens. Up to 22 hummers will perch on a single feeder—without fighting. A unity of purpose forms in the larger community as they lap up nectar to double their weight for their arduous migration. They focus less on territory and tolerate each other’s shenanigans.
When a bird with a broken beak showed up mid-summer, I expected the regulars to shut him out of the feeder action. But for five days, they allowed the little guy to guard the smallest feeder in my yard with impunity. The poor guy’s tongue hung out of his broken beak, forcing him to spend more time at the feeder to get nectar.
He perched on a faded flower blossom and kept a wary eye out for intruders into ‘his’ domain. The entire glimmer could have staged a revolt (especially when the other feeders ran out of nectar) and mobbed the small feeder, but they never did. They even let the bird with the broken beak join them at the big feeder when the small one ran out.
What if We Learned from the Birds?
Followers of Christ often act like a community of hummers. We come from different backgrounds and races with corresponding ways of making ourselves heard and protocols for behavior.
God wants us to grow and build spiritual muscle on our journey through life. But all too often, we get stuck in our routines and develop an intolerance for anyone who looks, acts, thinks, or dresses differently.
We squabble, argue, and disagree in the most vociferous way, preventing others from joining our community. When newcomers try to join the banquet, we knock them around because they don’t look like us. Some of us poke and prod each other more than we need to. We have a hard time settling down to fellowship together in peace.
What would happen if we looked at others with tolerance? Each of us carries injuries, but only some look as obvious as a bird with a broken beak. Can we learn to tolerate each other’s foibles without judging? Could we work a little harder to make sure others got their due and not worry so much about whether we get ours?
When I look at the definition of tolerance:
“The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”
I can’t help but see love. Jesus tolerates our bad behavior and keeps loving us into his kingdom. I want to act less like me and more like Jesus.
Father God, help me to think more about others and less about myself. Help me practice tolerance and restraint when confronted with ideas or people who aren’t like me. You want to prepare me for heaven—a place where all your children will live together in harmony. In Jesus’ name, Amen