I was in the midst of my busy morning routine, cracking the eggs into the pan, toast popping up, 5 dishes spread out across the counter waiting to be filled. The kids were running excitedly back and forth through the kitchen, energy bursting and I had barely finished my first cup of coffee. I felt myself beginning to tense up, my own energy low, noise level more than I could handle so early on, and a pandemic on my mind. While I should have been thinking about breakfast and kids my thoughts were landing somewhere between empty store shelves, toilet paper, a world without hand sanitizer, scary news briefings and the possibility of being stuck in this noisy house for who knows how long. My anxiety began to spiral out of control.
As I stood at the refrigerator, reaching in for the butter, I caught a glimpse over my cafe curtain, out the kitchen window. Up in the hazy blue winter sky, far up the cold, naked branches of the tall oak tree that shadows over our backyard, I saw a little black and white woodpecker, busy in her work, moving further and further up that tree as she diligently collected her breakfast.
As I looked up in that old tree and my weary eyes followed that tiny bird who blended into her surroundings so purposefully, I couldn’t help but realize what a miracle I was witnessing. More than this though, I felt God in that very moment saying, “Look Up- always remember to look up.” What came over me as I looked up in that tree, watching that little bird, was an immense feeling of calmness, peace and gratitude right in the midst of my busyness-my anxiousness-my fear. Caught up in the mundaneness of my daily chores, irritable from the noise and exhaustion, trapped in a spiral of toxic thinking and worrying about tomorrow, my eyes locked outside into the sky and onto his perfect creation in a still moment. As I concentrated on his words to me, I looked up and felt instant relief.
Perhaps God did that on purpose, creating so much beauty in the sky. Just think of all the majesty he put there. The trees and the amazing ways in which they change from season to season. The mountain tops; some covered in snow, some emerald green, some poking above the clouds or sitting calmly within the morning fog. The Sun and the Moon. The stars. The bright blue sky when scattered with perfectly imperfect clouds. The sunrise and the sunset-with their many different shades of glorious red and orange, yellow, purple and blue. A rainbow after a storm-so symbolic. What if God didn’t just make the sky beautiful for his own pleasure or ours, but rather with a purpose to direct us upwards, towards Him.
The sky, the creatures that he placed there, the trees that reach up towards Heaven; these were all part of His perfect and beautiful design. As a God of purpose and intention, he created ALL of creation BEFORE he created man and woman, even the birds. And when the garden fell, and with it flooded in the brokenness of an imperfect world, God did not take the beauty that he created from the earth. He chose to leave it. Perhaps he knew, in all the pain that comes with this life, that we’d need a reminder that he is with us.
As I looked up, out my kitchen window, Psalm 121:1 came to me, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from?” And then, because everything sparks a song lyric for me, I began to sing the Brian Doerksen song, “I lift my eyes up, up to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from You, Maker of Heaven, Creator of the earth. Oh, how I need you Lord, You are my only hope, You’re my only prayer. So I will wait for You, to Come and rescue me, come and give me life.” Isn’t it so true, that he is our only hope. Especially in the time we find ourselves in, right in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating a new year and suddenly today we’re trapped in our homes, not knowing if we’ll have enough toilet paper or Tylenol to last our quarantines and fearing an illness that can kill us or our loved ones in a matter of 14 days. An illness with no cure, no vaccine, no real protection. He’s our only prayer.
Up on a mountainside, Jesus preached to his disciples, found in Matthew 6:25-34, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God Clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
My favorite line that Jesus says in that passage; “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Let’s take it further. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to her child’s life? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to her mother’s life? Her father’s life? Her husband’s life? Are you getting this? Because I had read this line many times before, but when I read it with the uncertainty of tomorrow in mind and with the realization that what lies at the root of my anxiety is the inability to control a situation or an outcome, Jesus’s words resonated in a new and clear way for me.
Our creator knows us. He knows us so well that only he knows our first day and our last, because he is the one who ordained our days for us. He knows our hearts, our fears, our struggles, our insecurities and yet, he tells us not to worry. Not only does he tell us that he’ll take care of us, but Jesus says that we are so valuable to God that he will never let us be without what we need and he knows what we need before we do.
Next time you see a bird up in the tree, remember who put that bird there. Remember to turn to God. When the day gets busy and feels mundane. When you’re tired. When you’re burdened. When you’re cranky. When you’re overwhelmed. When you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. When you’re scared. When you feel out of control. When you’re anxious. When you’re going so fast that you forget to stop and look up. When you can’t see the blessings in front of you. When the noise just feels like noise. When you’re lost and don’t know what to do.
Let the birds, the trees, the clouds, the sunrise, the sunset, the mountain tops, the stars-all be a reminder to look to the one who created them. The one who created you. The one who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Because no matter what the future holds, God never changes. There’s a peace and joy and a hope, not to be found in this world, but only in knowing that the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who also made you, has it all under control.
And when I feel anxious, when I feel unable to handle the next bit of news, when I feel stuck in worry and fear, or when the little things in life-even preparing our next meal just seems to be too much-I will stop for a moment and gaze out my window, looking up. I will tell the one who made the trees and the birds and the one who made me, that I trust him, no matter what. As I exhale my prayer, I will breathe in peace.
“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”