Although I had read that the catbird got its name from its call, I had never heard him utter a peep. He quietly came to the square of suet, ate his fill, and left. The other morning, as I sat by the window he flew into the nearest azalea on the other side of the feeder and I heard it, a “mew” just as clear and sweet as a newborn kitten’s. And what caused him to mew? There on the suet perched another catbird--he was jealous. Suddenly he flew at the interloper and chased him away.
Within a week, a third catbird had joined the fray, this one a bit smaller and slimmer, probably a fledgling. Now they all go at it. It isn’t enough to chase one away and then eat your fill. They think they must sit guard and keep the others from getting any of it. This is not the catbird personality I had always seen before, and I hear that mew more often too. Now I know what truly lies beneath those slate gray feathers.
I have seen it happen with people too. You think they are one sort of personality but when circumstances don’t go their way, suddenly they morph into someone you have never met before. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like quiet mothers who instantly, and fiercely, protect their young, but others times it means we have not really become new creatures, we have just hidden the old one and stress made him rear his ugly head once again.
Becoming a better person is difficult. Baptism doesn’t instantly fix the flaws in your character. They have deep-seated roots from childhood or traumatic experiences in your life. It takes effort to change yourself. You have to first realize where the problems lie. Then you have to prepare yourself to meet those stressful situations with study, prayer and meditation, deciding ahead of time how you will react should the same thing happen again. You have to learn to accept the help of others, even if it does come in the form of a stern rebuke or disapproving look. Finally, you have to be on watch. Most of us just let life happen to us, then wonder why we weren’t able to do better “after all these years,” as if time were the only thing that mattered. Doing better must come from being better or it won’t last.
God will not remove the stress from our lives. He won’t make the trials suddenly disappear. Any time we convert someone with the promise that all of their problems will now be solved, we are giving them false hopes. The true hope is that now we have help with our problems, but only if we use it. God does not allow trials so we will have an excuse for bad behavior but so we will become stronger and better able to handle those trials.
I watch those catbirds and wonder if I have really become a new creature. Today it’s time to get up out of my chair and work on it.
For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again…Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they have become new. 2 Cor 5:14, 15, 17