Bird Mom Sarah

I’m the youngest of nine children. We weren’t Catholic or farmers or the Brady Bunch. The truth is that my mom and dad just really liked each other. There were six of us girls and three boys. I’m the youngest. I am, as my dad liked to say, the caboose.

Growing up in a big family I really didn’t have a whole lot of one-on-one time with my mom. So when my sister who was two years older than me went off to school, all I could think about was how great it was to have my mom to myself. I guess I thought it was going to be nothing but “me and mom” time. My mom, on the other hand, was probably realistically thinking something more along the lines of, “Sweet Jesus! Is this ever going to end?”

Looking back, I think I sometimes I got on her nerves because she would give me weird things to do like trying to catch a bird.

One sunny, beautiful spring day, I was outside with my mom while she was hanging sheets on the clothesline. I do sort of remember getting tangled up in her feet a bit just before she asked me what became a pivotal question in my life.

My mom kneeled down, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Would you like to catch a bird?”

We didn’t have dogs. We didn’t have cats, much less a trained bird …. So, heck, yes! I want to catch a bird. Who wouldn’t?

“Okay,” she said, “Go get a salt shaker from the kitchen.” She told me that all I had to do was sneak up on a bird that had landed somewhere and sprinkle salt on its tail and if I did, it wouldn’t be able to fly anymore. While she didn’t directly say it, the implication was that if I did this, a bird would be mine forever. I remember the idea flashing through my mind: “I’m going to be a bird mom.”

So I spent A LOT of time that day in the yard, running around trying to catch a bird… without success. Eventually my mom called me in for lunch and a nap. I decided that I wasn’t very good at bird catching and so I would have to give up the possibility of being a bird-mom — but I never did forget about the “what-if I did catch that bird”?

And then, one day, I grew up, got married and had a son. Years later I had another child: a daughter. And I grew wise in how the brains of little people work and why they need to be kept busy. Both my children were trained by me in the fine art of bird catching.

The point of my story is this: Sometimes we don’t appreciate our mom’s genius until we’re older and have lived a little bit of life for ourselves. It didn’t take long after having my son that I realized that moms have superpowers much like God. I’m not saying that we are God, but I am saying that we are, like men, created in the image and likeness of God and so we have access to the attributes of God.

Eve was not created as an after-thought. No, Eve was created specifically as someone who not only met the deep need for companionship that Adam had for another human, but she also reflected the Father’s ability to nurture humanity into the fullness of its potential.

Let me explain: Moms teach us to believe in the impossible.

Looking back now, I realize what my mom was up to with the whole bird catching thing. She had learned that pursuing the impossible would be irresistible to me. It was more than just catching a bird that I could have as my own. She had discovered something that she and God already knew, but that I hadn’t discovered yet:

We humans are born into the realm of what’s possible. Yet, God lives in the realm of impossible. What we think can’t be done; God knows it can. He delights in proving Himself right in this area. He always has and He always will.

Jesus said it best in Matthew 19 when speaking to the miracle of salvation: “With man this is impossible but with God, all things are possible.”

Think of some of the greatest Bible stories we know about the impossible:

It’s possible to come to the Red Sea and get in a boat and cross over. What’s impossible is to come to the Red Sea and the water split wide open for us to walk across on dry land. Yet it happened.

It’s possible for a woman to conceive a child with a man. What’s impossible is for a woman to have a baby without the help of a man. Yet it happened.

It’s possible for a man to be crucified on a cross, put in a grave and stay there forever. What’s impossible is for a man to be crucified on a cross, put in a grave and raised to life again three days later. Yet it happened.

Sometimes we question and wonder if those stories of old are even true, but from the beginning, that wasn’t always so. In the beginning, we believed everything God spoke to us. He said go take care of my Garden and we did it.

Can you imagine the expanse and beauty of the Garden of Eden? If you can imagine the most beautiful place in nature that you’ve been and then multiply that experience by a million.

That’s the reality of the Garden of Eden.

God told Adam to go name the animals and he did it. Can you imagine waking up in the morning and walking with the most majestic of all animals, lions, tigers, bears … and birds … and they responded to your every command? With or without a salt shaker.

This was the realm of impossibility that God created us to walk in.

Because of the Fall, however, sin entered the world and our entire understanding of the impossible was shattered. We doubted God’s good intentions toward us and it has cost us dearly.

Though the impossible was possible in the beginning, suddenly the impossible truly became impossible. And that became our standard.

We went from the absolute knowing of God’s existence and His authority and ability in our lives to wondering if there’s a God at all after the Fall.

There’s not a single person on the planet that if we are being completely honest who can’t point to some moment in time, some time of crisis, and remember when you’ve wondered if God even exists.

I’m not saying that you denied Him. I’m saying that you asked the question, “God, where are You?”

Life was too big. It was too hard. The pain was too real. Surely if there was a God He wouldn’t allow ___________ (fill in the blank).

Yet, after our intentional decision of unbelief in the Garden, God spends the next several thousand years preparing us to believe Him again. To truly trust Him.

You see this underlying hope all throughout scripture — especially and very plainly in the New Testament after the life, death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ — who is the greatest impossibility of all.

The Apostle Paul and other writers are constantly calling us to repentance, to change the way we think, to receive the hope of Christ so that we can be reconciled to God and believe in the impossible again.

Yet we sometimes find ourselves, even as Christians, more prone to believe what’s not true about God than what is true. It’s a sad state of affairs that we’re in.

Think about how often we’ve sold our birthright and lost hope in God for someone’s salvation, for that healing, for our financial needs to be met or that door to be opened in order for us to move into all that it is that God has for us?

There’s a fascinating passage of Scripture in which I feel like you can clearly see that Jesus is quite puzzled if not a little bit annoyed with man’s unbelief.

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Matthew 9:17-23

Please note how Jesus is stunned by the man’s understanding of the impossible: “If you can?”

I’m sorry but I can’t help but believe that Jesus is just a little bit put off at the man’s question. Maybe He was worn out at that point. Maybe He had had just about all He could take of people that day. I don’t know. All I know for sure is that Jesus understood as fully man and fully God the limits of living in the realm of what’s possible. His greater reality, by choice, however, was what’s impossible.

He was on planet earth carrying out His assignment because He believed in the God of the impossible. So for someone to say to Him, “If you can …..” made no sense.

Like Jesus, we are wired from the beginning to walk in the impossible. That is who we are. We were created out of the impossible.

So what are you choosing to believe? Do you believe in what’s possible with man or what’s impossible with God?

I know my bird story is kind of a funny story about believing the impossible but there were many times when my mom spoke hope into me about my potential in many areas of my life.

My mom knew how to believe the impossible. She knew how to encourage me to want more than my present state and to believe that there was more than what I was currently experiencing.

She was the one who encouraged me to go to college to find out what I wanted to do with my life.

My mother was not the type that her children could do no wrong. She loved us and was compassionate but she held us accountable to navigate life, whether we made mistakes or not. She didn’t defend us when we messed up. And when we did, she was the first one to correct us and then she’d tell us to go out and hold our head up and try again.

I only remember one time as a child being hugged by my mom. I only remember one time sitting in my mom’s lap. Though I’m sure there were other times that I just don’t recall. Yet I remember having many conversations with my mom in which she’d tell me all the things that she believed about me and what she believed about God. How she had experienced Him, personally, and sometimes in a miraculous way. As a stay-at-home-mom, with no formal education beyond the 8th grade, she told me how she had preached a 1,000 sermons in her head.

That I have the privilege of standing before you from time to time would have been nothing less than the impossible for even my mom to believe. There is no history of women Bible teachers in our family, that I know of. If she were still alive, I can’t tell you how much she would have enjoyed knowing that I teach, knowing that she was the one who taught me to receive the impossible from God, even when life didn’t make sense.

If you’re a mom, I want you to remember that it’s in the sum of all the little moments with your children that you’re teaching them who they are. It’s in the little moments with your children that lifetimes are made — when you teach them to believe the impossible of who they are in Christ.

Maybe you feel like you’ve failed as a mom and you haven’t done everything just right. Maybe you feel like you’ve missed out on the right to be respected, the right to be loved because of poor decisions and choices and life that’s happened to you — and that too much has been lost with your children to gain anything back.

Please know this: There is no one who has done absolutely everything perfect as a parent. Think about Eve in the Garden. No woman has ever suffered more loss in their relationship with God than Eve. She blew it, ladies.

Yet, God chose her to be the mother through whom the Savior of the world would come. God could have done it any way He wanted, but He still chose her! Parenting is a hard assignment and we can’t possibly do everything right or save our kids from everything. What’s more: We aren’t supposed to be our children’s savior. Only Jesus is!

I guess the main thing I want you to know as we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend is this: Our responsibility is to do our best with what we’ve got and to point our children toward God, not toward us. Teach them to believe the impossibility of God’s amazing, crazy plan for their lives. It’s not too late, mom. Don’t give up! We serve a God who loves the impossible!

The spring following the year that my mom taught me how to try and catch a bird, a day came when I was out in the yard again. It was my last season at home with her before I was being “shipped off” to first grade.

This day a line of strong storms had blown through the night before and I was out sloshing around in my rain boots and raincoat, just because I loved being outside after a good rain. As I was walking around I began to hear birds chirping very loudly. But these weren’t birds in a tree. These birds sounded close. Very close. Splashing through yet another mud puddle, there, on the ground, right in front of me, was a nest of three naked, tiny, baby birds.

I’m thinking, “This is a sign from God. I was MADE to catch birds!”

So I scooped up the little wiry nest with its little lice-covered orphans and carried them into my mother’s neat and clean and organized and disinfected home …. and I put them in my sock drawer. My head was literally spinning as I began to plan their care. I remember leaning over the top of the drawer looking in at them. I was thinking about how I was going to feed them milk and crackers to start. I didn’t know what to do about them being naked. The one thing I knew for sure was that I was putting salt on those birds’ tails, right away!

I couldn’t believe that the impossible had happened. My mom knew exactly what she was talking about. I was, after what had seemed a lifetime, finally a bird-mom. Bird-mom Sarah. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to believe in the impossible.

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