Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bird in a Barren Bush

A few days ago, I found myself sitting in Walgreens parking lot. I was there picking up a prescription for my daughter who was just diagnosed with strep and of course, meds weren't ready. Instead of driving home, I found a cozy parking spot, put my van in park, and closed my eyes. Silence. Quiet. Escape. Breather. It was a crazy couple of weeks with sick kiddos and mine and my husband's work schedules and it was nice to just stop.
After a few minutes, I opened my eyes. I was parked where I could see traffic going in and out and to my right were three bushes. They were brown and barren like most of the trees and and surrounding bushes. Something about these bushes caught my eye though and drew me in. In these bushes, there were birds. I started looking closer and there were birds in all of the bushes, hopping around. They started chirping loudly in unison. The chirping went on for a couple of minutes then came to a complete stop. No one would ever know these birds were in these bushes unless they were as close to them as I was. They were camouflaged by the color of the sticks. These little guys must have been seeking shelter from the cold wind that day. I remember being out in the wind taking my daughter into the doctor and covering our faces because the air was so frigid. Maybe that was it. They were trying to get far enough down into the bush to cover themselves from the fierce wind. Maybe they were looking for a bush that had leaves on it, maybe they were trying to get sticks to take to some other place to form a nest. Maybe they didn't know why they were in the bush, they just saw a fellow bird, and started flying behind them and that's where they landed. Maybe they heard the chirping and wanted to join in.

On the way home, I kept thinking about those birds in the barren bushes. Now I know it's probably common practice for birds to gather like that. I'm no bird expert. I couldn't help but see something familiar here, something close to home, something I've seen before. I've seen this scenario played out in my friend's lives, in the lives of family members, in people's lives I've never met, and I've seen it in myself. I think the obvious comparison we want to jump to is the bird. So, let's be the bird for a moment, the bird in the bush. Have you ever felt like you wanted to hide? Like you wanted to cover up something? That you needed shelter? A safe place? That your cries were drowned out by someone else's cries or not heard at all? We are a society that loves to hide. We find comfort in knowing we'll never be seen for who we are. In fact, we go great lengths in safeguarding ourselves so no one will ever be allowed to REALLY see what's going on in our world, our homes, or our lives. Even at surface level authenticity, we are really on the struggle bus. What's the first thing we as women do when we're getting ready for the day? We cover up. We pull out the concealer, the foundation, the powder, the contour stick, ALL THE COSMETICS, and we blend and rub and cover. What about those lines that are on my neck? Nope, not showing those today. What about my dark circles? They won't ever know I have them. And forget about showing any trace of acne or blemish. Sephora has my back. Now listen, I am a hairstylist and have been in an industry for 10 plus years that centers around making women feel more confident in their looks and I love me some makeup and I love hair color, but it is in fact, covering your God given natural assets. Just like hair color can take away those grays in about 30 minutes for 5 more weeks, we so quickly want to cover what we see in the mirror from head to toe. If you can't tone it, tan it. Wear four shirts to cover up the jiggle. Never show your legs because they look like a roadmap of varicose veins. Cover, layer, and put it away.
How does that translate emotionally? Mentally? At work? In relationships? With your spouse? As a parent? As a Christian? As a human being? We cling to social media in ways that are detrimental to our well being on so many levels. We fuel passive aggression by posting memes and statuses that don't mention names but we have it out there for certain people to read in hopes that they'll get offended or insecure or will be upset. Passive aggression is one of the most attractive ways to keep hiding because it keeps everyone and everything in the dark. We hunker down behind our screens and shoot out missiles without any purpose other than to hurt. But hurt who? Hurt people hurt people. We want to prove a point, shine a light on someone else, point the finger, and cast the blame. Why? Because they deserve it Because they hurt me. Because I'm so offended by X, Y, and Z. What does it look like to gather those missiles and turn that pointer finger around? What kind of hard work does it take to look in the mirror, accept what you see, and work on it from there without lashing out? What if our selfies were less about the angle of the camera and more about a straight picture of the heart?

The bird is no longer in that bush. It came out, flew out, went about its way to a warmer bush, maybe still a barren one with it being winter. But the bird knows there are blue skies, green grass, lavish bushes, and plenty of twigs coming in Spring. So the bird makes due until then. In this scenario, lets not overlook the barren bush. The barren bush is not seen. It's brown, naked, and really can't even claim it's worth looking at. It's feeble attempt in keeping the birds warm is sad. Raise your hand if you see yourself in the bush. Hello, there I am! I go through seasons of feeling vibrant, full of life, and beaming with the sunshine and bearing yummy fruit. And all too often, I feel like that barren bush. Weathered by the storm, feeling cold and naked, longing for someone to take shelter beneath my leaves but I have none to offer. Something I've learned over the years is I can't protect all the ones I love. I see those birds in that bush still shivering, still longing for shelter from the cold. I've always wanted to protect and preserve. To uphold, encourage, and edify when needed. But I have also learned we can absolutely be depleted of those things and be left feeling like a pile of dry sticks with nothing to give at all. I have carried that burden and will carry it for years to come I imagine. But the Lord has been gracious in reminding me it's not my job to uphold, to fulfill someone else's emotional needs, or to protect everyone from harm at all times. If I stay in that space, I am liable to self destruct in a way. Then I will have nothing to show for, nothing to produce, and nothing to offer.

My favorite part of this scene is the part that hadn't happened yet, not while I was watching anyway. The part when the wind got a little warmer, the birds got a little braver, and they all came up out of that barren bush, spread their wings, and took off. Shivering, I'm sure. Flying maybe a little wobbly from being perched in that bush for a little while. But the wings are open, the sights are set, and while destination may be unknown, the bird is breaking free and soaring. No greenery around yet, not much on the ground to make a nest out of, but there he goes. Vulnerable, bare, showing everyone what he's got. Not a bald eagle making it's flight across a majestic ocean, but a little shivering bird, freely flying to whatever's next.

What's got your wings tied friend? What are you hiding from or trying to cover up in your barren bush? Or are you trying to be someone else's safe harbor only to find yourself barren and unable to fulfill? Truth, authenticity, and transparency are hard things, but my God, when we embrace them, we are sure to be flying. It doesn't come without hard work, raw emotions, and real conversations, but start somewhere. Wipe off the makeup, take off the Spanx, come out from behind the screen and do the hard things. The creator of the world says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even if you can't stand the sight of yourself, or others for that matter, just think about that. The same God that formed the mountains and gave light to the stars also made you and says you, says they, are wonderfully made. Look up, take a deep breath, and spread your wings!

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