Picture of mockingbird


By Kay Etheredge

We really enjoy watching and feeding birds in our yard.  Early on, I fussed when Jim hung the bird feeder by our front porch.  I complained that the birds would make a mess on the porch.  He wanted to be able to watch them out the window.  We compromised and moved the feeder over beyond the front porch but still in full view of the window.  We have grown so accustomed to watching the birds that we have come up with little nicknames for certain ones.

There is the “wonky winged” cardinal—a male who has a bent feather on his wing. It hasn’t slowed him down or impeded his flying, and it also has not corrected itself over the 2 years he has been at our feeder.  There is a female cardinal who is missing her tail feathers.  I googled that and found it is called “stress molt” or “fright molt”.  It happens when the bird is attacked by a predator and it can leave its tail feathers in a puff in the predators’ mouth.  The feathers generally grow back in several weeks.  Each time we see her we wonder what predator she narrowly escaped.

Another bird, a finch, has what appears to be a large knot or tumor on his face.  He comes regularly to the feeder and seems to be able to eat with no problems, even if he looks kind of pitiful.  Some online reading indicated this can be a serious bird disease and we need to clean our feeder with bleach to protect the other birds.

Our bird watching has increased as we have recuperated from the accident we had on New Year’s Eve.  We couldn’t drive, couldn’t really go anywhere, and we spent lots of time watching the birds just outside our window.  Until…a mockingbird came.  Our daughter, Jane, on a visit home, nicknamed him “Hezekiah” for some reason.   Hezekiah was merciless.  As we read about mockingbirds, we saw that they really don’t like to eat from the feeder.  They don’t like the seeds that the other birds eat. The problem with mockingbirds, we found, is that they will go around each portal on the feeder and rake out all the seeds onto the ground.  They don’t want them, but they don’t want any of the other birds to have them either.  It seems the mockingbird’s redeeming factor is the beautiful song it produces, but other than that, it is a bully.  We tried everything.  We moved a suet feeder to the other side of the yard and filled it with the mockingbird’s favorite things—suet and dried fruits.  It still attacked the feeder and drove the other birds away.  As we tried to heal, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, the loss of our birds was almost too much.  A visitor to our home matter-of-factly told us that he had killed his mockingbirds and we’d have to do the same or our birds wouldn’t return.  Even though we didn’t like Hezekiah, doing something like that just wasn’t feasible.

One of the other things we did in our living room was pray and read the Bible—together.  We had purchased a beautiful liturgy/devotional book called Be Thou My Vision and we read it together each day along with our Bible.   Each day’s reading closes with a time of prayer.  One day as we prayed I said, “Lord, we miss seeing the birds You have sent to our yard each day.  We don’t want to harm “Hezekiah”, but we sure would like for him to find a new territory to rule.  Would You move him on to another place”? 

Several days passed and Hezekiah was in his normal spot…the corner of our gutter where he had a “bird’s eye view” of the feeder and nearby shrubs where the other birds stayed.  We saw him swoop down relentlessly and drive away even birds that were twice his size.  Doves and cardinals ran from him, but the tiny finches ignored him and ate whatever small seeds remained in the feeder he had meticulously emptied.  It was fascinating to watch.

Then one day, Hezekiah was gone.  He wasn’t on his perch on the gutter.  The bird feeder held plenty of seeds for the other birds.  Jim commented that Hezekiah appeared to be gone.  I had faith that God had answered our prayers and gently moved him along somewhere else. 

Last night’s graduation, moved to Brother Bryan’s chapel because of the threat of severe weather, was one of the most meaningful graduations I think we’ve had in a long time.  Most of the graduates, even though nervous, bravely told their stories of how God has redeemed the unwise choices they’ve made.  There were tears and deep brokenness.  And there was celebration over what a loving and faithful God we serve. 

I couldn’t help but compare some of the men to our birds.  There were wonky wings.  There were those with “stress molt”…snatched from the enemy’s devices just in the nick of time.  There were some that needed to be fed from a clean source…the beauty of the Word has saved them and brought them fully to health.  And there were maybe a few who, through fear or insecurities, had tried to control territories that they weren’t made to control. 

Our loving God hears our prayers.  He answers when we cry to him that we are afraid and hurting. He hears when we cry out that our lives are on a trajectory that we never planned  or wanted.  He gives us grace and gentle reminders that He is indeed in control, even when our lives seem so very much out of control.  Sometimes those reminders come in the form of His small winged creatures.  Sometimes it is in the lives of men who had believed they had no hope left. 

Yesterday as we pulled in our driveway and stepped out of the car, we heard a beautiful song. Jim said, “That is the mockingbird.”  We followed the sound and saw him sitting high atop a tree in our neighbor’s yard.  We listened to his lovely aria.  Jim told me he is singing to try and attract a female.  We could be wrong, but we believed this winged singer was our own despised Hezekiah.  We laughed as we said the beauty of his song redeemed him in our eyes.  For some reason he moved away from our feeder and his relentless tormenting of the other birds, and now he sits nearby, singing his heart out—the beautiful song the Creator has given him.  We know many Hezekiahs in our lives.  We often are Hezekiah ourselves.  How we pray for grace to allow our Creator to take our relentless offenses and redeem them with grace, turning them into beautiful praise that we can offer back to Him.   He gives us pictures of His grace in the birds, the people we know, and too often in our very own mirrors.