We don’t get much time to just sit and observe. The smart-phone culture doesn’t value “dead time.” Even when we’re stopped at a traffic light or waiting in line at a drive-through, we find something to check, something to monitor, something to comment on. That makes those rare moments when we do observe the world especially precious.
As my car was parked in line at a local coffee shop, I looked out the passenger side window and saw a blackbird hopping among smooth stones, which were set as filler for a concrete-bounded island at the edge of the parking lot. It was difficult to see what he carrying in his tiny beak. But then I saw it: a paper straw wrapper. As all nest-building birds, he was gathering elements for his home. This flimsy, bent piece of bleached pulp would be part of the paneling that his body would rest against. The waste of our world would become the wall of his nest.
In that moment, I thought of how much work goes into building a sturdy bird’s nest. There are so many trips back and forth: to the park, to the neighbor’s garden, to the crease in the curb that holds a host of dismissed details. And, yes, to the little, smooth-stoned island at the coffee shop. Then there is the weaving together of all the elements: dead grass, bits of string, leaf fragments, straw wrappers. The work is marvelously intricate. So much goes into something so small.
That is a truth not so foreign to us. Reflecting on his own smallness in a vast world, David asked, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The answer, of course, might be clearer to us, since we have two thousand years of Christian history and theology behind us: we are image bearers of the God who created, sustains, and governs all.
Take heart, brothers and sisters: You are very small, but very great. The triune God has put so much work into you and me, so much labor, patience, mercy, forgiveness, grace. Most of the world will not see or care about what you do this morning, just as most of the world probably missed this little blackbird gathering garbage at 6:00am. But God has a grand history of putting so much into things so small.