The sparrows, which usually prefer to fend for themselves in the summer, still flitted and darted by, or sat right down in the trough full of birdseed, being too short to reach from the sides of the feeder. One little fellow was having a terrible time keeping his balance, though. More often than not, he fell over in the seed, fluttering and scattering grain up and around, “stoning” his companions with their meal.
The second time I saw him, he was on the wooden ledge of the feeder, right next to the window on what should have been flat, even footing. Still, he could barely stand up straight, and often rested on his stomach, heaving great sighs of exertion that puffed up his little breast like a pair of overwrought bellows. The next time he stood I leaned as closely as I could to the glass and finally saw his problem. He only had one leg.
This little fellow was severely handicapped, despite his wings. He couldn’t hop just an inch or two without teetering dangerously. He couldn’t get from one side of the feeder across the trough to the other without flapping his wings and causing consternation among his closest dining companions. Perhaps the worst problem, he could not fly up to the suet cage and hold on with just one foot. He kept falling off. So he tried to hover a couple of times, flapping his wings as hard and fast as he could but was unable to get high enough to reach it.
I understood why he didn’t just nestle in the seed and eat to his heart’s content. The bigger birds often flew low across him, trying to scare him away, and his fellow sparrows would jump at and peck him. In the animal kingdom compassion is nonexistent. So this little guy had to fend for himself and do the best he could. I looked for him every day, wondering how long he would last before a bigger, stronger bird decided it wanted what he had and didn’t care what it took to get it.
All of us have been one-legged sparrows at times. We have problems. We experience trials, pain, and suffering, both physical and emotional. Just like that little sparrow, we often try to fend for ourselves, refusing to admit when we need help. I don’t want to let someone close enough to find out what’s going on in my life. It would make me look bad. I might have to admit I am not perfect.
It’s humiliating to admit my marriage is in trouble. It’s embarrassing to admit I have a weakness that is about to cost me my soul. I am ashamed to tell people that I have a problem with my attitude, to communicate my feelings in an intimate manner. You know what? Most of the time they know it already, but we cannot get the help we need if we won’t let people in. Refusing to admit weakness may be the biggest sign of weakness there is--it takes strength to admit we need help.
I have a theory about all this. If I cannot ask my brothers and sisters for help, I probably don’t have a real relationship with God either. The same humility that allows us to go to others also allows us to admit our sin and ask God for grace and forgiveness.
A sense of independence may be the worst thing for your spiritual life because Christians must realize they cannot do it alone—whatever “it” is. God expects them to trust and rely on him. He has given us a spiritual family designed to help each other. Christians understand that hopping around like a one-legged sparrow doing his best to survive on his own will ultimately lead to destruction.
Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory, Matt 12:18-20.