When we were building our current home in the country, a small bird flew in the open front door. My husband tried to wave it out through the open back door, but instead the creature beelined for a newly installed window. Which was not open. You can guess how this story ends. Except it’s not the end, because not even a sparrow falls without our Father’s care and concern.
Ever felt like you got it wrong? Perhaps you haven’t dive-bombed directly to your death, but a serious miscalculation, misunderstanding, or mistaken choice has led you to the edge of disaster. Betrayed first by an open door, then by a sparkling reflection that looks like reality and seems right, we sometimes crash and freefall to catastrophe.
“A certain traveler who knew many continents was asked what he found most remarkable of all. He replied: the ubiquity of sparrows.” –Adam Zagajewski
But God’s eye is on even the sparrow. A sparrow? It’s a songbird, but such a common little thing. Plain too, and never ventures far from home. And it can pester with its noise and nest-building persistence where it’s unwanted. Yet whenever a sparrow falls, God knows. That insignificant creature matters to Him.
Dates with Destiny
Last Sunday, our church held its annual picnic in honor of Fiestas Patrias, the patriotic holiday, a week ahead. That day, September 11, is loaded with drama in Chilean history, but my husband discovered that it’s a dreadful date of destiny worldwide:
- On September 11, 9 AD, the Roman Army suffered its worst defeat ever in Teutoburg Forest, Germania, marking the beginning of the end of imperial expansion.
- In 1297, the Scottish under William Wallace routed the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Remember Braveheart?
- On this day in 1541, a scant six months after its founding, Santiago de Chile was betrayed from within at a vulnerable moment, attacked, and burned to the ground by the indigenous hosts of Chief Michimalonco.
- In 1857, more than 120 western pioneers were massacred at Mountain Meadows, Utah, a controversial tragedy fictionally retold in the movie September Dawn.
- In 1973, a coup d’etat brought down Chile’s elected civil government and inaugurated 16 years of notorious military dictatorship.
- During the military government, the 1980 constitution, debated to this day, was instituted on September 11.
- And of course, on this date in 2001, the multiple—and unforgettable—terrorist attacks in the United States took place.
This September 11th… we thought of dying friends, starving churches, warring nations, an entire globe gasping in panic and anxiety.
A lot of unpleasant surprises going on in that list of events. It reminds us we’re not alone when we feel overwhelmed, bushwhacked, shot in the back, or hit totally out of nowhere.
“Some say…that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, to the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.” –Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Flurry of Feathers
Today, September 19, 2022, the U. K. and the world will mourn Queen Elizabeth II and then farewell her into history. For my Canadian husband, she was the monarch of the Dominion his entire life. Like some of you, he sang “God Save the Queen” instead of “O Canada” during his early years in school.
Given her age, we should have expected it, but somehow I suspect we thought she would never die. Queen Elizabeth loomed large, a lion or an eagle, but certainly not a sparrow (despite her husband’s affectionate nickname of “cabbage”).
The Commonwealth will certainly change, that’s for sure. There’s even some doubt about the future of Christendom in Britain with the Queen’s passing, I understand.
But hasn’t the world always trembled on the tip of a knife? Our lives are so small, weak, precarious. “Perilous times shall come,” warns the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:1. NKJV). Yet God promises, even to “the sinful kingdom,” that “not a kernel will fall to the ground” (Amos 9:8-9, NASB), except that He notices and allows it.
Our hostess at the church picnic gifted me a handful of flower seeds. I dropped one. Just one tiny seed kernel. Sure, I could have let it fall and drift away. But I never let it out of my sight. I scrambled to rescue it, because I love flowers. I suppose they attract the birds, too.
That anecdote reminds me: If I care about a seed, how much more does God about the world that He created, holds in His hand, and died to redeem?
The little things and the little people matter to him. In fact, He uses them. He not only cares for them, He gives them assignments. He watches them and observes their every breath, counts their every hair and feather.
Droplet Gift #39: I will shout with the prophet Joel (3:10, ESV): “Let the weak say: ‘I am a warrior!’”
Not the weakest sparrow falls except by God’s appointment. In whatever difficult place we find ourselves, we remain in His care, for His time, for His purpose.
In re-reading the story of Jonah recently, I was struck by some seemingly insignificant things near the end of the prophet’s tale. After the incident with the great fish that God appointed, Jonah preached, the city of Nineveh was saved, but…Jonah felt bummed. So then, God appointed a plant to give Jonah some shady relief (4:6). He was pretty happy about that little plant.
Next, God appointed a worm to attack and destroy the plant (4:7). God appointed a worm? He was teaching His prophet a lesson about His care of each and every soul He had made.
Then, finally God allowed—actually appointed—a scorching east wind. Here He reminded Jonah of the 120,000 people of Nineveh “who do not know their right hand from their left” (because of innocence or ignorance) and “also much cattle” (4:11, ESV).
Cattle?! I honestly have to admit, I don’t often worry about the cattle, even in drought, unless I’m planning a barbecue. But God cares about the animals too. Not a sparrow falls, not a plant withers, not a flower fades without His knowledge. And we fear that we can droop and die outside of His most intimate interest and involvement?
“You might be tempted to think, I need to be strong. But the truth is, it’s okay to be weak. In your weakness, His strength will be all you need.” –Craig Groeschel, Leadership Podcast
Twist of Providence
In the mighty hand of God, the weak is made strong. The simple become wise. The small is great. And if the sparrow falls, “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Dt. 33:27b, NASB).
If He can plan for a fish, a vine, a worm, and a wind, surely He has a purpose for us. We are NOT too invisible.
“Enjoy the little things in life…for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” –Robert Brault
- Bethlehem, “too little…among the clans of Judah,” produced the Eternal Ruler and Strong, Kind Shepherd of Israel (Micah 5:2-5a, NASB).
- God commanded ravens (another bird!) to feed the prophet Elijah in the wilderness. Then He appointed a dying widow in a distant foreign city to provide for His own (I Kings 17).
- He sent a little girl into captivity in Syria in order to bring the great captain Naaman to repentance and faith (2 Kings 5).
- Who could forget “only” five loaves of bread and two small fishes that fed 5000+ people? (Mt. 14).
- Or the promise that the stones will cry out if we keep silent? (Lc. 19:39). Buns and pebbles—such paltry things.
Yet God will transform the broken and bruised, the despised and defiled, to praise Him.
“There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” –Shakespeare, Hamlet
I know how frail I am. Oh, how I know! But God doesn’t let me down, even when I feel like I’m close to rock-bottom.
Haven’t the times always been bad—uneasy, uncertain, dangerous? The days of Jezebel and Nero and Michimalonco, of famine and fire and sword, were no less dark and difficult than today.
But in these last days, we little ones look forward to the dawn when “no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:3-4, ESV). Not a sparrow falls unnoticed.
Our stories matter to God, even though we feel unknown and unimportant. He knows, cares, understands. We matter, from the queen to the sparrows. And today’s battle matters, whatever the date.
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” –Hermann Hesse
Lord, don’t take me home… until I rise up, fly, and fight. And even when I fail, let me fall into your arms.