Thursday, May 31, 2007

Birds of a Different Feather

I took this photo last winter when we were walking on the beach in Long Beach. I think the bird is a Least Sandpiper, and I have been completely captivated by sandpipers for several years now, ever since I was walking along another California beach watching the different shore birds.

There were the sea gulls sitting in ranks along the surf, sleeping or else soaring overhead. There were the longer-legged sandpipers (Willets? Yellow-legged sandpipers?) who waded out into the water to probe with their long beaks and feed. And then there were the small sandpipers, who ran in little groups, hunched over like little old men, though I've never seen little old men move as fast as these fellows. Their little legs working like mad they would scurry away, just ahead of the incoming crest of a dying wave, then as it stopped and receded they would scurry back, stopping here and there to poke their beaks into the sand and scoop up whatever tasty treat had risen to the surface under the wave. Then the next wave would come in and off they'd go, running madly to stay ahead of it. Should it have caught them, they would have been set afloat, I think, for their legs were little longer than the water was deep. None of them did get caught, however, for they always flew away before they would let that happen.

I walked and I watched the birds, the two kinds of sandpipers, the gulls and even a flight of pelicans, and I thought how each kind was different. How each kind was specifically made to fit into the niche God had planned for it. Sandpipers could not dive into the ocean and scoop up fish in beak pouches like pelicans could. Pelicans would never be able to move their legs as fast as the little sandpipers to escape the waves. Neither of them needed to. Instead, they were precisely suited to the life and environment and activities that God had decreed for them.

So it is for us. Not quite so obvious, perhaps, but nevertheless true, and maybe even in a wider sense, I think. We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, inclinations and aversions. Part is genetic, part is learned. But we are all different and unique. The world too often tries to make us all alike -- as people, as Christians, as women, as writers -- but I believe it is God's plan for us to find out who we are in Him, and live joyously in that.

So once again, I'm looking at who God has made me to be, cycling back over old ground to have another look, seeing things I didn't before, and having the things I did see reinforced with time and added information. Yes, I really am the way I thought I was. And some things I thought were flaws, really aren't. They'd just characteristics, part of who I am. Recognizing that, as well as who and what I am not, is extremely useful in guiding me toward what I believe God is calling me to do. And not do.