What do you fear?
Several years ago we were at my son, Garret’s, soccer tournament. Between games we went for a walk in a little park near the fields. As we walked, I heard a very loud “whirring” sound. My son, Taylor, and I turned and got a big-time stare down by a little tiny bird – a hummingbird. We stood frozen as he hovered effortlessly just a few feet in front of us. Finally he zipped off, I’m sure considering us an unworthy challenge.
I smiled and remembered another incident with a hummingbird that happened one day that taught myself and my sons a valuable lesson….
The Hummingbird and the Rattlesnake: A Tale About Fear
I was hiking with my boys trying to find a little adventure, and we did! As we returned from our hike, we encountered another bold hummingbird. We were trudging down a hill when I heard one of my boys yell as if he was in mortal danger. As I turned I saw him bobbing and weaving like a prize fighter, trying to avoid what I thought was some imaginary danger (this is a little boy, after all!). I soon realized, however, that we had apparently intruded on the territory of this brave little bird. A hummingbird the size of, well…a hummingbird…took exception to our presence and dared to enforce his mastery over the area.
We all started laughing as this little guy ascended about 20 feet above us, hovered, and then dive bombed us over and over again. As he descended we could hear the whir of the wings. Once upon us, he would dart toward one of us, and then another, before ascending once again, only to repeat the process within a few seconds. Over and over he dove, and harder and harder we laughed.
Yes, we laughed, but I could also sense a bit of nervousness on the part of my young sons. After all, what if this little guy failed to stop as he buzzed toward them? What if he took that little needle of a beak and actually poked them with it?
I assured them that, while I suppose it was possible, it wasn’t a likely danger. And, if he did, in fact poke them, it would undoubtedly inflict more damage on him than on any of us.
Yes, it was a danger, but nothing that could cause permanent damage to any of us.
The danger, however, was not insignificant with what we had encountered earlier on our hike. As we reached the peak of the little hill we had climbed, we could hear the unmistakable sound of the rattlesnake.
It was loud.
And sounded as if it was right beneath us.
I told the boys to freeze – we needed to know where it was so we didn’t step on it. Thankfully, it was tucked up under a small rock outcropping, but we were still too close. Just about ten feet away was the largest rattlesnake I’d ever seen.
And it wasn’t happy. Oddly, the boys didn’t express any real fear of the snake. They thought it was cool. They were fascinated by it. They wanted a closer look.
I allowed the boys to have as close a look as possible. It was probably about 5 feet long, and the sound of the shaking rattle was amazing! Really, as an experience of God’s creation it was beautiful!
But it was dangerous. We took as close a look as we could, but I wouldn’t let them linger – much to their chagrin – because it was a real danger.
That hike was one of the most memorable I’ve had with my boys. But it also illustrates a life lesson about dangers.
Some things we experience aren’t really that dangerous, yet we easily become fixated on them & allow them to rob us of so much. Losing a job or losing a house are “dangers”. My family has experienced both, and it’s not fun. But it’s not life-threatening unless you allow it to be. It’s a hummingbird that’s buzzing us…nothing to fear, really.
Then there are real dangers in life. Dangers to the heart. Dangers to our character. Dangers to our relationships with those closest to us, and to God. Oddly, sometimes we don’t seem to fear these dangers. We’re fascinated, and often we want to take a closer look. But these are the rattlesnakes in life…truly dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.
Ironically, it was the real danger – the rattlesnake – that was easier to get away from. We just had to walk away. The false danger – the hummingbird – buzzed us all the way down the hill.
Isn’t that the way it is in life, too? We worry about hummingbirds when we should be running from rattlesnakes.