Spotting the first robins of spring always takes me back to the spring of 2006, an ordinary robin’s nest, and the simple truths it contained…
We had a front row seat to the miracle of new life. A pair of robins built their nest low in the branches of our apple tree. So low, in fact, that my three kids could peer right in, without even standing on tiptoes. Four beautiful, blue, perfectly formed eggs peered right back at them. And so the story began.
I found myself strangely comforted by the sight of the mama bird perched so contentedly on that nest. Each morning I’d wake up and eagerly part my bedroom blinds for a look out at the apple tree. There she always sat, regardless of what our unpredictable Wyoming spring weather threw at her. Sun, rain, sleet, snow, hail, and the ever prevailing wind–she prevailed through it all.
My oldest daughter got on the Internet and informed us that a robin’s egg incubates for 12-14 days. And sure enough, about two weeks later, we chased the robin off the nest long enough to note that three of the eggs had indeed hatched. In their place were tiny, hairless little creatures with faces only a mother robin could love.
The remaining egg hatched a day or so later. Soon all we could see were four golden beaks, pointing up like sharpened pencils, when their mother returned to the nest with dinner. Within a few days we could also hear those noisy beaks as they celebrated the timely arrival of a juicy worm or some other succulent morsel.
We human mothers have more in common with our feathered friends than you might think. After all, we say an expectant mom is “nesting” when she compulsively cleans right before her due date. And how do we refer to the home when the last child leaves? It’s an “empty nest!” The Bible also frequently uses the imagery of a bird and its young to illustrate God’s special relationship with His children.
As the drama surrounding the busy nest in our backyard unfolded, I realized I had been granted a privileged spot in a unique classroom. A humble robin may be an unusual and unlikely mentor. But as I sat under her able instruction, I watched…and learned.
Lesson #1: It matters.
The mother robin was a picture of serenity as she rested sedately on her nest. I was attracted to her quiet dignity as she faithfully fulfilled the purpose for which God had created her. She almost seemed to be holding her head high, proud of her noble calling.
The robin instinctively knows her place and purpose in the world. But you and I need to be reminded that giving birth to and nurturing LIFE is an unparalleled honor given to us by God. What could be more significant? Mothering matters! It is a reflection of the heart and nature of our Creator. Like the robin, we can experience peace and contentment, knowing we are in the very center of God’s will.
Lesson #2: Stay close.
Before the eggs hatched, the robin spent most of her time sitting on the nest. She would occasionally leave its perimeters in search of a snack or a quick shower in the sprinkler, but she never traveled far and always returned quickly. Several times we ventured out into the yard to sneak a peek at the nest when it appeared to be unoccupied. Each time we were surprised to find that she hadn’t abandoned her post at all, but was somewhere in the grass or branches within earshot and eyesight.
When our children are young and vulnerable, they need the comfort of our presence and the assurance that we are never far away. We may at times, out of necessity, need to leave the nest. (Time away to preserve one’s sanity is also a necessity!) But stay as close as you possibly can and return as quickly as you can.
One of the qualities I appreciate most about my heavenly Father is the fact that He is always near, keeping a watchful eye on His beloved children. Deuteronomy 32:11a describes God this way: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young…” And Psalm 73:28, one of my all-time favorites, states that: “The nearness of God is my good.” Let your nearness be the good of your children as well.
Lesson #3: It’s hard work.
After the eggs hatched, the robin no longer had the luxury of putting her feet up on the sides of a quiet nest. She spent most of her time then flying tirelessly back and forth across the yard, gathering food and dropping it into four hungry mouths. As soon as the quadruplets caught even a glimpse of her in the tree branches they would sit up and start squawking for more. Once they were satisfied, she would wiggle her red breast and then plop it right down on top of them, as if to say, “It’s nap time!” Surely, it was she who needed the nap!
Parenting small children can often feel like we’re rowing on an endless sea of needs. I remember many times pulling our van into the driveway with a crying baby needing to be fed, a whining toddler needing attention, melting groceries needing to be put away, not to mention my own full bladder needing to be emptied…trying to decide which of those needs to meet first! Often we moms feel like we’re last in line and wonder with a sigh, Who is going to meet my needs–and when?
Listen to what God says to you in His Word. “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26) In Philippians 4:19 He promises that He “…shall supply all your needs…” !
You matter to Him! You don’t have to wait in line for Him to wait on you. When you look to Him to care for your needs, you will be filled up to care for the many needs of your family.
Lesson #4: It’s a battle.
The first time we approached the robin’s nest she flew off, frightened. As time went on she grew bolder in her protection of her eggs and later of her babies. Once she even chased my scared kids all the way up the stairs of our wooden deck and back into the house as she chirped loudly and flew at them aggressively.
We too need to be bold and vigilant in protecting our young. Dangers lurk everywhere–from oncoming traffic to Internet predators and everything in between. The Bible says there are also three enemies of our souls: the world, Satan, and our flesh. These threats may seem less obvious but the spiritual danger is just as real.
Prayer is a mother’s secret and best weapon. I believe God’s heart is especially tender to a mama’s cries on her babies’ behalf. Despite the myriad dangers, we can rest in His capable protection of them and of us as we pray and “hide in the shadow of (His) wings.” (Psalm 17:8)
Lesson #5: Stay together.
It wasn’t many weeks before the quads were tumbling out of the nest and testing out their own new wings. One night, not long after they had flown the coop, my husband and I relaxed outside on our porch swing, enjoying the cool and calm of the May evening. Against the backdrop of a colorful sunset, silhouetted on the fence, we spied the pair of robins. None of the baby robins were in view, but there the parents were–still together, a team, lifelong companions.
It is no secret that half of all marriages today don’t make it. Many don’t weather the storms and stresses of the child raising years well. Some of my sweet single mom friends can attest to this painful reality firsthand.
But there is hope. Beth Moore shares in Feathers From My Nest:
We’re making it. And so can you. Only one thing stood between us and a scattered nest. God. Ever loving us, forgiving us, teaching us, restoring us. Redeeming our failures. Reclaiming our surrendered ground. Repairing our broken wings. As Psalm 91:4 says, He covered us with His feathers. And they are all over our nest.”
Precious, hard working mom, like the robin you, too, can hold your head high. God has entrusted you with the most important assignment in all of creation. Let Him be the Lord of your nest. He will enable you to do your job well. He will so graciously provide and ever so powerfully protect. Then this will be your grateful song of victory:
..You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. (Psalm 63:7)
Note: All Scripture references are from The New American Standard Version.