By Jane Highley
This is not a silver-linings reflection, although that is not a bad idea for another post. Instead, I am sharing with you something curious that I have come to notice since we have all been ordered to shelter in place since March.
It took a pandemic for me to notice how many hawks fly around in our area. I knew vultures were aplenty, especially where there was fresh roadkill nearby. But I never knew that there were also smaller birds of prey (known as accipiters) right in my own backyard. I’ve been noticing them from my makeshift classroom in our sunroom, which is an ideal location for daily Zoom sessions because of the abundance of natural light and a heavy sliding door that drowns out the household noise.
I’m sitting in that sunroom right now, and after hours of teaching remotely in this space, I am both entertained and enthralled by these birds. They hunt during the daytime, and they seem to find plenty of food in our neighborhood, which is fine with me, especially if they are keeping the local rodent population in check. More than once, I’ve seen these hawks flying from tree to tree with something long and twisty in their beaks. Snakes? Twigs for nest-building? Regardless, these birds seem to be following a routine guided by seasonal changes, evolutionary instincts, and most certainly, God’s order of creation.
This discovery is particularly poignant as it reminds me of my favorite passage: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:24-27).
Hawks are not ravens, I know, but Jesus’s lesson remains the same: Don’t worry. That is much easier said than done, but this is Jesus! He faced far worse than mandates to shelter in place indefinitely, far worse than missing out on baseball, prom, and graduation, far worse than unemployment and financial uncertainty. He knew of all the suffering to which he would succumb, and he fully accepted the reality that he would be the sacrifice for all of our sins, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The pandemic does not go away, of course. There are those among us who still have to make monthly payments but without the security of a regular income. Others have been chronically ill and are overcome with fears of contracting covid-19. And then still others who have work but their call of duty is in ICU floors, nursing homes, post offices, SEPTA buses, and grocery stores.
We all have worries that can break us beyond where hope is visible. But to me, hope is visible in the orderly comings and goings of the hawks in my backyard. Their world reflects the steady order that God commands in all of creation, including us. We may not feel any peace and order right now, and any measure of calm may quickly vanish with the latest update about this crisis. Yet, what is to be gained by my rumination? Can I ward off the virus with worry? No, but I can find transcendent peace and steady hope in our Creator, who is unshaken and unsurprised by this pandemic and its worldwide impact. The same God who orders the hawks is the God who ordered his Son to be the precious sacrifice for sinners — us. That is enough for me to abandon my worries and to rest in his love.