I think God wants us to yell at Him. He wants us to demand good of him. He wants us to expect good and not ill, even if we are disappointed.
He wants us to hope, to trust, and cry. To demand like a child, honestly and earnestly, —not to sit quietly by, with the stoic despair of an adult who no longer expects anything.
When I was a teenager, someone I cared about was going through a number of miscarriages. Every time, I prayed so hard that this time, the child would live. One even made it to 4 months, and then died like the rest, just a passage of blood, and a woman crying. I stopped praying. Oh yes, my God had the power to heal and to save. I believed that. But He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t.
I still went to church and prayed about other stuff. My twin, during our prayers, told me I was bitter at God. I said I wasn’t. I was just, well, a grown up now.
And then last summer, my sister found a stranded ball of fluff in middle of the parking lot. It was after a big rainstorm. After 2 hours, the parents still hadn’t come back for it, and it didn’t even have feathers to fly (just fluffy down). She dug up some worms and fed it, and put it on the grass. It ran back out to the middle of the parking lot, squeaking. So she brought it home in a paper bag.
We named it “squeaker” and frenetically dug up worms in the back yard. After several days, the rains subsided, and worms were scarce. We went to the public library to consult the internet. According to the pics on the internet, squeaker was about 7 days old when we got him. We were supposed to feed it soaked purina kitty food and diced hardboiled eggs, every 45 minutes. Every 12 hours, I changed & cleaned his cage (2 laundry baskets tied together, with a towel in the bottom and an old nest and a branch for perching).
For 5 days squeaker thrived. We called several bird rescue phone numbers off the internet, but only got answering machines. They didn’t call back. I was worried, but things were looking up. Squeaker grew feathers and perched on the little branch in his laundry basket, ate enormous amounts of food. I learned to dice the hardboiled eggs the right size, and squish together about 5 wet pieces of purina kitty food into a little ball. I learned to get the consistency just right, so it wouldn’t get too sticky to stay on my fingers, but not crumble off before it got to his mouth. He would squeak and squeak and flap his wings, and open up his little enormous mouth that was half his body size. Then he’d wait for me to drop it in his mouth, and then wait some more until I tapped the food down his little throat, and then he’d swallow and blink, and open his mouth wide again–even if he wasn’t hungry. You could only tell he wasn’t hungry because he wouldn’t bother swallowing. He grew to squeaking happily when I’d walk into the shed to feed him. He also made massive amounts of white droppings. Which I cleaned every morning and evening. There was a spat with my siblings when one of them found out I was using their favorite towel to line his nest. My fifteen-year-old brother volunteered to take half the feedings, we took turns. Every night we’d stop feeding him till dawn, and I’d worry that he’d get scared all alone in the shed at night, but he seemed to be ok in the mornings.
Then on the sixth morning I came in, and he wasn’t squeaking to see me, perched on his branch. He was huddled on the towel. I switched out the laundry baskets, and tried to feed him, but he wasn’t hungry. As usual, I examined the droppings–and they were exactly what the bird website warned about. The were gelatinous and dark red, like blood. And when I put a pin in them and dragged it along a hard surface—it came along with the pin. The bird website said if the poop was gelatinous, it was all over. They would die. I told myself that there was plenty of other kinds of bird poop, everything would be ok. I went inside and prayed, and calmed myself down.
An hour later I came back to feed him again, and there was more bloody droppings. Squeaker was now lying on his side–not even on his little bird legs, but literally on his side — and appeared to be…panting hard. He just blinked.
We had to go to church. My dad got us all in the car. I was distraught. We got to church, it was sunday school. In the hall, a lady asked me how I was. I started crying. I told her there was a bird that we were trying to help, and it was sick. She gave me a hug. I was embarrassed, it all seemed so insignificant, but I was really falling apart.
I couldn’t go to sunday school. I went to the church basement with a Bible, and just sat there alone.
I told God, why do you do this to me. Why. I found myself talking about the two other wounded baby birds that I had found dying as a kid, and then about the human fetuses I buried in the back yard. And the miscarriages.
Look God, I get it. Life is hard. I shouldn’t care so much about little creatures. But you do this to me. I had gotten over the past, I’d shed all my childish childhood tears for those other birds, and now…when I’m an adult, when I’m ok, you bring this one into my life. I didn’t even look for it– my sister brought it home. I ended up being the one who had to take care of it, and I was very practical and cynical about it. I fully expected it to die in 2 days like all the other, it lived. And I was calm when I grabbed the earthworms and dropped them into squeaker’s mouth. I was calm when I dropped the mashed up kitty food into his mouth. But then, the way he waited for me to tap it, the way he needed help swallowing, the way he blinked when he swallowed…that wide bird mouth of his, and that awkward neck, flopping so ridiculously. I wasn’t planning to love him. He’s a bird, for heaven’s sake. I’ve already served my time crying over the mice in the glue traps I had to drown in a bucket as a kid to put them out of their misery. I was silly, I buried the drowned gluey mice in rosepetals. But now I’m a grown up, I got over that sort of thing over a decade ago.
But you put squeaker into my life. You let him live for 6 days. You gave me hope. You put this irrational intense love in my heart for this little critter, and then… you kill him now?
Fine. You have the power to give and take away. It’s your call, God. But I am bitter. This hurts so much. You are a capricious God.
I flipped open the Bible in my hands. It fell open to an Old Testament story: 2 Kings 1, verse 14. The Prophet Elijah is hiding on a mountain, and the evil King Ahab sends 50 soldiers to catch him. Prophet Elijah prays to God to protect him, and fire consumes all 50 men, fried dead. The evil king sends another 50 soldiers, they are fried too. Undeterred, the evil king sends another 50, but this time:
Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.”
My eyes fell on that verse. It seemed clear enough. God was giving me no explanation for the other times. But He was telling me to ask, this time, that though the other little creatures had died, I was to pray for this one.
I wasn’t going to. I mean, I’d prayed for squeaker that morning. But not really prayed. Not prayed when the bleeding had started and all was lost. I didn’t expect God to care about this. Not this time, after all the times I’d begged like a child who expects to be answered.
So I did. I sat there, begging like a child that expects to be answered. I cried hard, feeling stripped bare. There is a total vulnerability in really begging, a nakedness in it. The tears kept coming, for squeaker, and then more tears, for the other birds that had died, and for the miscarriages too.
I opened my Bible a second time. It was Christ, speaking to a Centurion, who was begging for someone’s life, who was dying. Luke chapter 7, verse 10. My eyes landed on this verse “And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.”
I dried my tears and went upstairs, my parents and sisters were just finishing choir practice. “God will heal squeaker” I told my dad, “He said so.” They just sort of looked at me, and my dad gave me a hug.
I was quiet throughout the church service. I fully expected God to disappoint me when I got home. But still, I was going to hold Him to his word. This was His fault.
We got home. I didn’t have the emotional strength, so my sister opened the door. Squeaker was up and about, fluttering and squeaking, very hungry. I looked at his droppings — every one of them, fresh and white.
Five days later he was flying 20 feet, almost escaping the shed. It was obvious now–he was a mocking bird. He was a teen bird, a “fledgling” and this was the age, the bird lady explained, when we had to let him go to learn to be wild from other birds. We took him to the grove near the parking lot, where he’d probably come from. He fluttered out of the basket, sat on a branch near us, and cocked his head to one side. There was the sound of birds chattering in the trees in the distance, hundreds of them. He flew off in the direction of the birdsong, without looking back. My brother came by an hour later with food: he was nowhere to be seen.
That is the story of squeaker.
I think God was trying to teach me something.
To be continued