I wondered what consequences that might bring, but did not have to wonder long. He flew out to the first feeder, perhaps fifteen feet away. He almost hit the ground as he began and just barely made it to the feeder's perch about three feet off the ground, flapping harder than I have ever seen a cardinal flap in order to make the last foot. He managed to eat a few pecks, but one of the other birds flew at him and he just managed to get away before he fell, swooping barely above the ground to a spot beneath the largest azalea. Obviously, flying was difficult for him. The next time I saw him, he came at almost dark, when the other birds had left and he could eat in peace. Still, he had trouble getting up to the seed, and ate most of the time what had spilled onto the ground beneath the feeder.
So I looked it up. Why do birds need tail feathers? I asked Google. And, as it does these magical days, Google answered. For lift and stability at take-off, for steering in flight, and for balance when perched. Without a tail, flight distance would be reduced, they could not soar, and they would have less lift and agility. All those things I saw as I watched that cardinal that day. The information went on to say that some birds would be helpless. Hummingbirds would crash and sea birds would splash. Doesn't sound like too good an idea to have no tail. Probably this little guy lost his in a territorial battle or perhaps to a predator who wound up with tail feather for dinner instead of cardinal meat. So in one sense, I guess he was lucky. But it certainly made his life more difficult and his future survival chances less.
I think it must be obvious that our tail feather, so to speak, is the Word of God. What helps us steer our way through life's obstacles? What keeps us balanced and steadfast when we must perch on a precarious limb? What gives us a lift when we need it and the ability to soar? When we ignore the Word, when we think a thirty minute sermon once a week is enough, we might as well pull out our tail feathers and try to make it on our own. Even with those feathers, a baby bird has to learn to fly and often tumbles from its nest on the first try. Without them, he has little hope.
Trying to make it as a child of God while ignoring His communication with us is spiritual suicide. If you want to soar high above the predator over longer distances, perch easily and safely to nourish your soul, and steer around the trees rather than smashing into them, make that Word a daily part of your life. Otherwise you are no better, no safer, than a cardinal without a tail.
I didn't see that cardinal today. How long will we see you?
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:30-31).