Tonight my kids witnessed a bird murder. Or maybe it was a homicide; isn’t that what you call it when someone hasn’t preplanned their actions and the killing transpires in a sort of spur-of-the-moment way? Regardless, they witnessed a bird kicking the bucket at the hands of a person. A seven-year-old person. With a pool noodle.
Let me tell you (from experience) – that scenario can turn a fun night at the neighborhood pool into a solemn and teachable moment on a dime. A whole “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21),” type thing.
We were with several dear friends at a neighborhood pool and the kids were swimming while we moms sat and talked (I mean, ate). After a while the lifeguard called the hourly 10-minute adult swim break and the kids hopped out of the pool and kept playing on the patio. We were engrossed in adult conversation, so it took me a second to process what I overheard one little boy telling his mom: “Mom, He-who-shall-remain-nameless just whacked a bird with a pool noodle!” (Yes, I’m referring to the murderer as He-who-shall-remain-nameless to protect his guilt; he’s one of my best friend’s children and he’s sooooooo cute that you’d never take him for a bird killer.)
It took a minute to sink in, and then He-who-shall-remain-nameless’ mom and I hopped up and walked around the corner to the scene of the crime. Sure enough, there was a bird on the ground. It was alive but remained completely still while several children were crowded around it, stroking its feathers. We thought maybe it was just in shock, so we shooed the kids away and gave it a little space. Then…nothing. It was in the sunlight, subject to the sweltering heat, and we devised a plan to move it to the shade. Someone found a box and my daughter picked him up to put him inside of it. As she lifted him, he tried, unsuccessfully, to fly away. He got out of her hand but immediately fell back to the pavement, which, I’m not gonna lie, was super sad. My daughter picked him up again and we got him loaded into the box.
Then she went and washed her hands. Twice. #Ew
We brought the box over next to the moms’ table and my friend grabbed her son, He-who-shall-remain-nameless, and marched him over to another table to have a talk. He was feeling awful at this point and was in tears, knowing he’d hurt the bird. I can say with some certainty that he wasn’t trying to KILL the bird. My guess is that he was just being a stupid boy, and he swung the noodle at the bird thinking what all of us think when we run into a flock of birds at the park or on the beach ― they’re gonna fly away when we get close. Only this one didn’t. And he whacked the FOOL (and ultimately the life) out of it.
All of our children were very concerned. They gathered around the box and diagnosed his injuries. My daughter begged me to take the bird to the veterinarian’s office (which was closed). After a couple of moments we sent the kids back to swim and kept an eye on the bird. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this wasn’t going to end well. His mouth was open and he was completely still, breathing at a rate of a thousand breaths per minute (or so it seemed). Sure enough, after another minute or so he was still. At peace. Out of his misery.
“Guys, he’s toast,” I said. They all looked over and saw that he was still, not breathing.
About that time my daughter emerged from the pool, and she ran over to check on the little guy. I had to break the news to her, and she cried. She walked quickly through the stages of grief, including anger that was directed toward me because I hadn’t taken him to the vet. Of course. It was MY fault.
Another friend’s son came over, glanced at the dead bird, and said, “Rip, sweet bird.” He pronounced it like the word “rip,” which was pretty stinking hilarious. “Rip, sweet bird. Rip.” I covered my mouth and tried not to burst into laughter.
He-who-shall-remain-nameless and his mom walked back over shortly after that and I had to break the news to them too: Tweety was now enjoying his eternal celestial dirt nap. My friend’s son looked horrified, but not as horrified as my friend did.
“What, Mom?” he asked.
“He’s DEAD, son,” she replied, beyond upset with her son for whacking the bird with a pool noodle. He-who-shall-remain-nameless looked heartbroken (for a moment), then he went and hopped in the pool.
Oh to be seven again…
My friend was frustrated with her son, and rightfully so. “I talked to him, and I don’t even think he cares,” she said. “I asked him what he was thinking, IF he was thinking as he swung the pool noodle at an innocent bird that’s fraction of his size, and he said he wasn’t thinking anything! He just wasn’t THINKING!”
She was mad. I get it.
But I also get how typical it is for a seven-year-old boy to act before he thinks. To truly NOT BE THINKING.
I get it because I do the same thing.
So often I develop tunnel vision and do what I want, when I want, usually not considering that my choices could affect others. That I could do damage. That I could deal a fatal blow to another in the process.
Sometimes I simply don’t THINK.
I’m guessing you might have the same problem.
Immaturity dictates rash decisions and poor choices. It leads us to seek what feels good, what’s fun, without thinking ahead or considering the consequences. Sometimes we swing our pool noodles because we’re amped up and looking for attention and acting a fool, not expecting to actually come in contact with a bird. We wind up and we swing and then WHACK, down it goes.
The Bible talks a lot about wisdom and foolishness. In Proverbs it describes wisdom as a guard for our lives.
Never walk away from Wisdom—she guards your life; love her—she keeps her eye on you. Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Throw your arms around her—believe me, you won’t regret it; never let her go—she’ll make your life glorious. She’ll garland your life with grace, she’ll festoon your days with beauty. ― Proverbs 4:6-7 MSG
I’m not sure about you, but I could definitely use as many guards for my life as I can get! I’m a hot mess apart from Him, and anything good in me or through me is only because of the Lord and the wisdom He imparts to me, a wisdom that is greater than my own downfalls. In order to receive His wisdom, though, we have to seek it. To find it. To throw our arms around it, never again to let go.
When we let go of wisdom we’re prone to kill something. Or someone.
A dear friend of mine is currently walking through a tough situation. It’s a scenario she never imagined she’d be in, and it’s nothing she chose. She is dealing with the consequences of someone else swinging a pool noodle and taking her down, and she’s hurting. She’s left picking up the pieces of a broken marriage and a broken family while the noodle-swinger is walking in foolishness, oblivious to the depth of the pain he’s caused. He developed tunnel vision. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and still doesn’t understand how deeply his choices are affecting and will affect others.
The difference between my friend and the bird at the pool is that this won’t kill her. She will be okay. But it hurts.
The moral of her story is this: if we don’t seek wisdom now, if we don’t find it and throw our arms around it and tie it to ourselves so it’s an anchor for our souls, at some point we’ll find ourselves swinging a noodle, taking out those we care about most in the process.
We have to seek God’s best. His best for us and His best for those around us. We have to consider others, and to remember that we bear a weighty responsibility to walk in step with our Heavenly Father, not just for our own sakes, but for the sakes of those He’s put in our lives. We need to pause, to think before we swing.
We need to beg God to give us His wisdom.
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. ― James 3:17-18
We’ll never do this life perfectly. We’ll most definitely swing before we think at times, and we will hurt others. But we can chase after wisdom like nobody’s business, and make it our goal to minimize the damage to others when we sin. We can surround ourselves with other wise people who love us enough to tell us the hard truths and to call us on our junk.
And when we do mess us, we can find grace and forgiveness at the foot of the cross, offered to us from Wisdom Himself as He simply says, “Come as you are, receive My healing, and sin no more.” And we can try again.
He-who-shall-remain-nameless will definitely be paying penance for his noodle-tastic bird-swatting skills. His mom and dad are trying to come up with the perfect consequence, something that will guarantee that he learns his lesson and doesn’t ever murder a bird again. I’m thinking of suggesting she simply makes him watch the old movie “The Birds” from start to finish, thus inciting an irrational fear of all winged creatures for the rest of his life. He’d stay far away from birds then, I promise you that.
Feel free to laugh!