One enjoyable aspect to the unfolding of spring each year, at least for some of us, is the multitude of birds which return to the landscape, flying their way back north from their southern winter retreats.
Birds are fascinating creatures, delighting with their many colors, but most especially with their aerial abilities. For as long as anyone can remember, mankind has delighted in watching birds fly, and there is a lot of delight to be had in such an endeavor. Birds are marvelous pilots, though we may not always appreciate just how much skill they are exhibiting as they fly here and there, swooping and tumbling about. Yet consider the skill it takes for a song-bird to swoop into a tree, avoiding the many branches, before coming to alight upon the single one branch it had chosen, going from a break-neck speed to a dead stop in just a matter of seconds. Or consider the split second timing required by a bird of prey to swoop down upon a small victim, without crashing and breaking its neck. And such abilities are not just to be found only in the most elite of bird-flyers… every single bird has similar abilities, able to control its flight with near-perfect mastery.
How do birds do it?
Birds, we observe, are perfectly built for flight, from their feathers to their light bone-structure to their aerodynamic wings, bodies and tails. Yet physical properties alone cannot explain the remarkable aerial stunts engaged in by birds. Birds also have an innate instinct for flight. This instinct, exhibited by birds as soon as they begin trying to flap their wings, is what allows the myriad species of feathered flyers to perform their many astounding aerial feats. Even birds without parents to teach them, are soon able to master their abilities, most of them flying within the first month of life. And, as soon as they are airborne for any length of time, they begin to naturally perform the same amazing feats as all the rest of their species.
Instincts, such as those possessed by birds, are one of the many glaring holes in the theory of evolution. There is no known mechanism by which a creature can pass on learned knowledge to its offspring, and, in fact, it is generally understood that learnt behavior is never passed on. So, the question remains, how did birds learn how to fly so well?
The biblical answer is, of course, that God designed and created birds to fly from the beginning and that every flying bird that has ever been hatched came into the world with instincts already programmed into its biological makeup. “God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:21; ESV).”
When we consider the creation of God, and its many marvels, we can agree with God that it was indeed good.
Now consider that the same God who taught the birds to fly, is willing to teach us. God, the scriptures say, “teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens (Job 35:11; ESV).”
God wants to teach us. He wants to care for us, and He wants to raise us up. One of the beautiful promises made by God to His people is found in the prophet Isaiah: “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31a; ESV).”
Unlike the birds, we are not born knowing all we need to know to soar spiritually. God has designed us so as to require actual instruction. We must learn to trust. We must learn how to obey. We must learn to love one another as God has commanded. Yet, if we will receive instruction, the results are no less remarkable than the flight of any eagle or songbird. Spiritually, God has created us to have the capability to rise to heights greater than any bird has ever flown. He has given us the ability, if we will unlock it through training, to discern good from evil, to practice loving-kindness, and to make the world around us a better place. He has given us the capacity for a joy greater than any expressed by a bird in song, and He has promised us that if we will but follow Him, He will guide us to a heavenly and eternal home.
Sometimes men, in their folly, distrust the ability or wisdom of God to actually lead them aright. When we are tempted to such doubts, we might do well to consider how well God has taught the birds to fly. God does all things well and wisely, and as Jesus reminded us, humanity is worth more to God than any bird (cf. Matthew 10:29-31).
The Chapel Hill church of Christ, will begin semi-regular meetings again on May 17th, and we invite you to visit and worship with us then, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.