By SHERYE S. GREEN
In the company of sparrows
The longer I’ve walked with the Lord, I’ve discovered a longing to better discern His voice above all others. It’s not always easy to hear Him in this bustling 21st-century world. These middle-age years have afforded me greater amounts of time to reflect on how I can train the ears of my heart to distinguish the difference between God’s voice and others.
True to His creative nature, my God doesn’t communicate with me in only one manner. Sometimes it’s a gentle whisper heard within my heart. Often, it’s a portion of His Word that leaps off the page, imprinting itself onto my heart and mind. At other times, the wise counsel of a trusted, godly friend solves the riddle of a question.
One of the ways God converses with me again and again is through His world. The first honey-tipped fingers of the sun peeking expectantly over the horizon. The majesty of towering trees swaying gently in the wind, their branches lifted heavenward. Gold- and ginger-tinged scarlet streaks burning a path across the sunset sky. The milky glow of the moon. As I’ve gotten older, these messages seem to come more often and speak more distinctly to my soul.
One of the most meaningful ways God reminds me of His love for me is through sparrows. I often encounter these cheerful little birds when I’ve just pulled into a busy shopping center or when I return to my car after completing the errand of the hour. Their fluffy coats, sporting speckled hues of brown, tan, black and white, look smart and fashionable in contrast to the bits of litter strewn around the pavement on which they scramble. I’m always amazed at how close they allow themselves to get to me, their Lilliputian shapes a sharp contrast to my Gulliverian stature.
Invariably, the sparrows appear when I’m experiencing one of two types of days: one when busyness has crowded out any sense of joy, or one in which self-pity or doubt has obscured the rays of hopefulness from casting their glow upon my heart. In both cases, I have made a choice, albeit a very poor one, to slog through the day relying on my own meager resources, rather than casting my cares upon my Burden Bearer and taking the strength and energy He offers.
There are 35 varieties of sparrows. Several are found in Mississippi, including the chipping sparrow, the house sparrow and the white-throated sparrow. Perhaps to some, they are at the lower end of the aviary measuring stick, due to their ubiquitous supply, insignificant size, and the fact that they are not as attractive as some of their more brightly-colored cousins.
But to me, sparrows are heaven-sent messengers, ferrying upon their little wings whispered reminders of just how much my Heavenly Father loves me. The sight of one tiny feathered head peeking out from underneath the car parked next to mine is usually all that is needed for God to draw my attention back to Him.
Clergyman’s wife Civilla Martin penned the popular hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow” in 1905. The Martins once made a house call to visit a couple, both of whom suffered from chronic, debilitating illnesses. When asked how the pair kept such an optimistic outlook, the husband quoted one of his favorite scriptures, Matthew 10:29-31. He said that since God’s eye was always on the sparrow, it was also surely on this man and his wife. Upon returning home from the visit and being moved by the gentleman’s attitude, Civilla wrote the lyrics millions have come to know and love, sending them the next day to composer Charles Gabriel to be set to music.
Stanza three of Martin’s hymn perfectly describes the transformation which occurs in my heart each time my good friends, the sparrows, appear:
“Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When song gives place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
Just as they did for Martin’s friend, the words penned by Matthew soothe my soul: “Two sparrows sell for a farthing, don’t they? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Never be afraid, then — you are far more valuable than sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
God has given each of us another new year in which to serve Him and share His love with those around us. Determine in these first days and weeks to keep your focus on the Lord, despite the distraction of the culture of busyness. And on days when it is hard to do so, may you find yourself where I delight to be — in the company of sparrows.
Sherye Green is a Jacksonian and a wife, mother and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul and Tending the Garden of My Heart.