by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
Remember that it is not enough to simply admit that our way of handling problems does not work. There is a component in most species where at some point in the course of fight or flight that they somehow realize that the struggle against an insurmountable foe is futile and it is time to “admit” defeat and give up the fight. That is the admission of powerlessness. Giving up the fight can mean we remain there to die, or we can submit to the care of a higher power to help win the fight. So at the heart of admitting our inadequacy and need is submission to a source of authority, power and strength that is not only bigger and stronger than we are, but is bigger and stronger than our adversary.
I was on my way into Heritage Counseling Center to meet a client one Sunday afternoon. In front of our facility was a wheelchair access ramp that is probably seventy-five feet long or so. It was enclosed with a roof with large windows facing outside. The entrance of the access ramp had a large opening without a door. As I approached the door that entered into the facility I saw a bird seemingly fighting for its life wanting to escape to freedom.
This small bird, perhaps the size of a sparrow, had flown deep into the access ramp to within six feet or so of the door that enters into the building from the ramp. I walked past the bird, I stood in front of the door, and watched it continually fly beak-first into the glass window as it attempted to fly away. On Sunday, no one else was entering or leaving the building except for me and my client who would be arriving in about a half-hour.
I watched the small bird try again and again violently flapping its wings as it repeated the act of flying into the glass window. The bird’s adversary was the glass window. The window was pretty clear and it was obvious that the bird had no idea what was obstructing it. To the extent that the bird could logically reason its path, it must have appeared to the bird that nothing was preventing it from achieving its objective. The bird could see the other side but could not get there.
The glass represented an obstruction that was impenetrable but the bird’s perspective was distorted and no matter how hard it tried and struggled, it was not flying through the glass barrier to freedom. So it would fly and bang into the glass window and land on the ledge in front of the window. Again and again this bird would fly and bang into the glass and land on the ledge.
Each time the bird flapped its wings it expected to find freedom, only to repeatedly bang into the glass window. The result each time was that it remained captive. These vain repetitious actions demonstrated by this bird got it nowhere. This bird tried to achieve recovery its own way over and over again, and while it expected a different result, that being freedom each time, it remained captive. As long as the bird could see freedom from this glass cage, it would continue in this insanity until it died trying.
After watching this for a couple of minutes, I walked right up to the bird next to the window as it was trying to fly through. It didn’t seem to even notice that I was standing there. I thought I could help the bird to recovery from its problem. I held my hand out onto the ledge in front of the window so when the bird landed it was in the palm of my hand. I tried to escort the bird toward freedom by carrying it in my hand toward the ramp’s entrance. The bird did not trust me. It did not comprehend that by submitting its will into my care it would be certain to recover from bondage into freedom. It flew again into the glass window not getting anywhere. I suppose the bird experienced a sense of desperate panic.
Again and again it landed into my hand but still did not trust me enough to submit its will into my care as it continued to work at solving the problem its own way. After a couple of more minutes of this, the bird let me walk with it in my hand for a few feet before it would take off again only to fly into the next window that appeared to be the flight to freedom, only to hit the glass barrier again.
This went on a couple of more times until something changed within the will of this bird. This little bird stopped fighting. It apparently yielded its control, gave up the fight, and submitted its will into my care. I feared that if I squeezed my hand or hands around the bird that I would hurt it.
It probably took great courage on the part of this bird to trust me. Clearly, it is not the nature of a bird to reach out to a human being for help. I doubt it would have gone contrary to its nature to let go of the struggle to let me help it had I not persisted. Had it been persistent in fighting on its own to escape by fighting against me in my desire to help, at some point I would have let it go to do its own thing. It is our nature to fight on our own and resist help that is offered to us. Despite repeated failures, as sin addicts we trend toward using addictive behaviors as a means to fly through life’s barriers. The way seems clear until we bang into the obstruction blocking our escape. We’re sucked in. It leads to greater barriers and increased anxiety and pain. Like the bird, we experience the futility and insanity of our efforts and remain captive.
I thought this bird story was pretty cool so I immediately called my wife to tell her about it. She called me “the bird whisperer”. That bird might never have found its way out of the crisis it was in and may have died trying. It was stuck in a cycle of insanity. Stuck in addiction we lose perspective. We no longer accurately see the bigger picture because of a distorted belief system. We tend to repeat the patterns of behavior that keep us bound in our problems. Lifestyle choices are made with the intention of finding relief to minimize discomfort, and then wham, we hit a barrier. Then there is another attempt to fly “high” to freedom, and then wham, we hit another barrier. The problems that lead us into bondage evoke thoughts and feelings that grow in intensity which results in problems being made worse and invariably additional problems.
The bird did not find relief until it seemingly trusted me and yielded its will and control over to me. I was bigger than the bird’s problem, and when the bird let go and submitted to me I delivered. I came through and led the bird to a better life. Is it possible that I was led by God to care for this bird? Before you laugh, look at what Jesus said to his disciples about God’s relationship with the birds of the air:
“What are five sparrows sold for, two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid. You are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows…Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds!” Luke 12:6-7, 24 (NLT)
God pays attention to all of his creation, even the birds. But he pays so much more attention to you and me. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for birds. He died for us. The challenge for us is to recognize our need of God. The key is let go so God can do his thing in our lives to change us and restore us to a place of recovery. God is persistent in reaching out to us, but if we resist him, he will not force himself on us.
I shared my “bird whisperer” story with a client recently. I spoke of the insanity of repeatedly doing the same things expecting a positive result, only to keep falling into the same traps again and again. About the bird’s futile attempts to solve its problems in its own strength, only to repeatedly fail, my client said, “That’s exactly what I do.”
It is the constant learning process of letting go of our independence from God in order to grow in depending on God that leads to independence from the things that hold us captive. Jesus said, “I am the way,” yet we remain captive in our addictive lifestyle when we do not recognize him. As long as we perceive that our ways work, like the bird looking through a glass window as a clear path to relief and freedom, we tend to hold on and pursue recovery in our own strength just as the bird did. Yet when we let go and rest in the palm of God’s hand to carry us through, there is deliverance for us into a place of recovery as God restores our broken lives and puts us back together again.
Just as I was bigger than the bird’s obstacle that it couldn’t overcome that Sunday afternoon, God is so much bigger than any obstacle holding you down today, restraining you from a life of peace, joy and stability. It is God that holds it all together. Let him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 (NASB)