The first birds that showed up were cardinals. Those I knew, and I was thrilled to be able to see them so closely for the first time in my life. What was less than thrilling was seeing those ugly females. They did not look like the pictures in the books, smooth olive green with red tinges on the edges of wings and crest. Some of these were a muddy brown all over. Some were mottled gray. And the crests looked like a bad hair day times ten. When the juveniles first appeared, they looked even worse—a little bit like human adolescents, lanky, lean, and awkward with spiky crests that never laid back straight, and splotchy, molting feathers as the young males began to grow their signature red coats. But at least I knew what they were.
When the first tufted titmouse arrived, it took me over a week to figure out what it was. Ignorance in the bird watching world means you have to look at page after page after page and when the bird tires of eating and flies away, you no longer have anything to compare it with. For several days I was sure it was a gray gnatcatcher, and proudly told everyone else who sat at my window and showed some interest. I really do not remember when I finally learned the truth. It probably was a matter of getting more and more information and seeing more and more pictures until finally the real identity of this bird became apparent.
After a while I learned what to really focus on, not just colors, but also things like crests, eye rings, and wing bars. The details make the difference when it comes to some species. Otherwise they look exactly alike. It also helps to have photos instead of drawings. As careful as I know the wildlife artists are, they still have a tendency to draw the ideal version of that particular bird. It's like the difference between a glamor shot and a right out of bed before makeup shot.
Then I got a book containing only Florida birds. It cost a pretty penny, especially for something the size of a large wallet, but it has made all the difference in how quickly I can locate and identify a bird. No more being "absolutely certain" only to discover that the bird in question never flies east of the Mississippi. This particular book has only photographs, and it also explains things such as their flying patterns and activities that can help you identify the bird, plus which other birds bear a close resemblance and how to tell them apart, and whether they are only here for a season or all year. If the book says this particular bird is only around in winter and here it is July, you know you are looking at the wrong picture. The book also divides the birds by their color, a real boon in saving time. Identifying birds has become much less work and much more fun simply because I am not so stone cold ignorant as I was in the beginning.
Unless you plan to be an ornithologist, you can learn most of what you need to know about birds like I have—reading, looking at pictures, and especially, watching the birds themselves. Now when I sit and watch, I know what to look for, I have a general knowledge of when to look for certain ones. We only have goldfinches for a couple days in the fall when they migrate south and in the spring when they head back home. Although we have sparrows and catbirds around all year, they will only come to the feeder between November and April. Otherwise they like to fend for themselves, thank you. That bird that always sits on leafless limbs, then flies down to the ground and back up to the same limb over and over is a phoebe. And that behavior is called hawking. See what I have learned because I really wanted to?
Guess what? Bible study is similar to this. When you don't know what you are doing, you make some ridiculous mistakes. When you aren't familiar with the scriptures at all, you hardly know where to begin and how to make all the facts you uncover fit together into a coherent picture. The only way to fix this is to keep at it. I have been watching my birds for over a decade now, and only now can I recognize a couple dozen different birds, their sounds, and some of their activities. Now I know that bird in the tree that won't sit still more than a few seconds is probably a bug-eater rather than a seed eater. Bugs move and seeds don't!
Bible study will only become easier for you when you have spent some time at it—and I don't mean a few minutes a day for ten years. I mean many minutes a day for years and years and years. It may be easy to understand the basics of how to please God, most of us were raised with that. But when it comes to the details, it takes a lot more time than reading your chapter a day like a good girl. When you have put the time into it, you will know what to look for and how to find it. You will recognize allusions to other passages. Maybe you will see the worth in spending a little bit of money on Bible resources. Maybe you will overcome your timidity and ask someone to help you. I know good solid Christians who would love to help you. I would love to. I go all over the place speaking to groups of women, and my husband would be happy to speak to their men.
And the more you know, they more things will begin to click, the more light bulb moments you will have, and gradually, the stronger your faith will become. After all, faith does come by hearing the Word of God. If you cannot find time to spend with God's message to you, how can you ever expect to have enough of that faith to overcome, to endure, and to please God?
You may be just a beginning Word Watcher. But you can become so much more.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Ps 119:9-11)