By Brenda Black
Three miles. That's the distance between the home driveway and our little country church, give or take a few hundred feet. The convenience for saving gas is diminished on those Sunday mornings when every member of the household arrives on the premises one person per vehicle. Most days, the caravan consists of two – the early shift and the late shift. Recently, I opted to go with my early bird preacher husband who gets to work way before anyone else. Since I arrived long before others would gather or my SS class needed my presence, I lingered in the parking lot. The sun warmed my right side through the open car door and a gentle breeze welcomed me to God's property. I was thoroughly at peace and glad I made that choice.
Suddenly, something swooped right past the front windshield and nearly entered my Impala! A Barn Swallow gave me an up-close-and-personal, “Good Morning!” We were parked very near a muddy nest and morning exercise drills were in progress.
I thought this must be an industrious mother tending her babes. Then I noticed multiple split-tail acrobats ducking and diving a few feet ahead. They were fledglings, exuberantly testing their wings – all but one that is. Five little swallows chirped and careened past the mud and twig built nest over and over coaxing one timid sibling, who sat firmly and defiantly attached to home.
I marveled at how sturdy that little abode to hold six wiggling, flapping youngins; and how industrious the parents who constructed it. Nest building is a time consuming process for busy swallows who sometimes have to travel several hundred yards to a stream bank or other source of mud.
My mind snapped back to the one straggler. By then, he had dared to take a mere 2-foot flight to another mud glob in the opposite corner of the porch on this old school house that sits opposite our church. The family swooped again in waves of encouragement, bidding him take flight with them. Several minutes passed while the stubborn swallow refused to fly. Finally he launched to join the rest.
They cheered with chirps and aerial acrobatics. Then quickly, after the group was all air born, they disappeared as one. The aerial show ended, and only faint, audible evidence indicated that they may have congregated in a nearby tree.
All I could think was that I just witnessed a winged version of the congregation that would soon join me in this sacred place. The House of God is a refuge. Some cling to it desperately and care for it meticulously. Some take flight from it and grace the world with their joyful exuberance. It's where we are fed and encouraged. Our brothers and sisters in Christ encircle us with prayers for courage, cheers for success. Here, we learn to spread our wings and take risks. In this holy place, we find the wherewithal to soar!
Since that sudden epiphany, I've learned more about the Barn Swallow that helps me realize to a greater extent how important it is to heed the lessons the Lord gives from even the smallest creatures.
1. When feeding young, the swallows fly from before dawn until after sunset, while taking very few rests.
Time is of the essence. In a world saturated with sin and deceit, feeding our children the Truth of Christ is critical for survival. And that takes good old fashion hard work! Talk about it when you sit at home and when you drive down the road. Tell them about Jesus when they lie down at night and when they rise in the morning. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9) Little swallows work their scissor tails off to make sure their hatchlings have a healthy start. That begins at home. It carries over into the assembly of the called out – the Church. Young families take notice.
2. Barn swallows usually nest in small colonies and also hunt together.
Togetherness is of significant worth. In a world that captivates our every waking moment, setting aside a few precious hours once or twice a week to stand with one another is invaluable. I need you and you need me in times like these! Especially when the enemy is on the prowl. When a cat or other predator approaches a barn swallow's nesting site, the entire colony immediately mobs the intruder in an impressive display of bombing dives! We are the body of Christ and we need to watch the backs of our brothers. That means praying, helping, loving and staying as long as necessary by their side in good times and in trouble.
3. The swallows seem to enjoy the easy life of late summer, when they do not need to work every minute of the day to feed their young. They are often seen perched above the creek, doing nothing at all. But, the easy life is short lived, as the end of summer approaches and they prepare for their long journey south.
Travel plans are eternally important. This world will end. Either your life will come to a close or the Lord will return. Either way, you better know where you're going and what it is going to take to arrive there safely. Like the swallows, we have a long journey ahead. Unlike them, we cannot take it easy until the day of our departure. We need to keep searching for ways to reinforce the nest so we can launch another hatch in the power of Christ! We must keep building one another up as we see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Next time you see a glistening blue and tawny Barn Swallow dart gracefully over a field or above a body of water, look closer at the agile flyer . God has set him apart from all other North American swallows by gracing him with a forked tail. Those two feathers are a reminder of two boards fashioned together to form a cross. Jesus made a way so we could wing our way home one day just like a Barn Swallow.
copyright 2012 The Word's Out - Brenda Black