A Lesson on LBJs
Jul 09, 2009 by Nancy Buschart | 0 Comments
Four or five LBJs have frustrated me today. LBJ – Little Brown Job – is a term birders use when they can’t put a name to a face. Although I’ve been watching our feathered friends since I was six years old, I still see more LBJs, birds whose names elude me, than I care to admit. If I were a keeper of a “life list,” one who records every sighting, I would be even more frustrated by LBJs. But, I’m not a life list keeper; I watch birds because I love them, they are beautiful, and they point me to the Father who made them all with creative good humor.
I’ve always just reluctantly given up on LBJs. Normally, one uses this pseudonym because they’ve seen the bird too briefly to name it. Too fast, too fleeting, too hard to distinguish. Today a small flock of LBJs fed all day on the ground under my feeders – behavior and preferences point to identity. I am seated at the bay window, not fifteen feet from the creatures, with my trusty bird guide and my binoculars. At this distance, it’s like putting the little things under a microscope! But the book and the bird just don’t match up! Very frustrating.
With these little guys hanging around for so long and with my unusual proximity, I should be able to definitively name them. Brown and black, heavily streaked back and streaked breast (this was the rub). Gray collar. And so, I turned to the possibility that these were unusual sightings. What birds have streaked backs AND streaked breasts? I tried to make them Pine Siskins (no yellow, feed on coniferous trees—not from feeders or the ground), female finches or grosbeaks (feed from feeders, not the ground, too big, wrong shaped beak, no males in the group).
When all this was done, my best guess was that these were juvenile birds. The young ones always make identification tricky because adult plumage for small birds comes at the end of the first summer or at the beginning of the second year. Young eagles take years to get their white tail and head feathers.
Instead of being an unusual sighting, these LBJs were common and frequent visitors to the ground below my feeders. Unaccompanied by an adult, these were teenaged Chipping Sparrows, just fledged from the nest and learning together how to care for their own feeding. Even though they didn’t have the coloration of an adult Chipper, I finally decided to let them be Chippers. Sometimes ‘letting it go’ is more prudent than trying to see something that isn’t there.
An hour or so later, sure enough, a male adult Chipping Sparrow came through. Finally, a definitive identification.
A Lesson from the LBJ
As growing disciples of Christ, and as a spiritual companion to others, there are lessons in this encounter with juvenile Chipping Sparrows.
Being unable to identify my own, or a friend’s, soul-need can be frustrating. This may have more to say of my need to fix a problem than it does anything else. God the Spirit knows the name of the heart issue and the timing for its surrender and healing.
It is tempting to try to assign some unique heart condition to a problem. But as Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun. When the heart is crying for healing and release into truth, we need to peel back the deceptive layers that keep us from uncovering the core issues common to human beings since Adam and Eve. The conditions that have always been are likely culprits behind our soul’s need today.
“Behavior and preferences point to identity.” If one’s behavior is incongruent with who one claims to be, there is a rub that needs to be addressed.
Tenacity to the process is essential. It takes courage to stay with one’s longing and pain. The “bird guide” and binoculars are essential tools – we need to read Scripture deeply, meditatively, and engage widely of the best ancient and modern writers on the spiritual life. We need to pray and listen. And, ultimately, “letting go” will be the best course of all. Surrender into the Father’s loving and gracious arms is where we find our truest selves.
The discipline of waiting may be hardest of all. Waiting and perseverance produce faith and trust. He knows who we are and what we need.
Asking The Three Questions
Who is God?
He knows my need.
Who am I?
Often, I’m an LBJ.
How am I living?
Sometimes, I’m trying to figure it out by myself.
How ought we be living?
Seeking to be engaged in the process of my own becoming and surrendered to the Maker’s care.
© 2009 Vine, Vision & Voice
Nancy R. Buschart