Stragglers

birds.jpg__800x600_q85_cropIt’s been a long time since I posted. Hopefully that was a quirk.

A couple of days ago, I saw a flock of large birds—not sure what sort—flocking. You know, they were flying in various patterns, back and forth, probably following wind currents. As is typical with flocks of birds, they changed directions in unison, as though one mind was directing them all. They were functioning as a single unit instead of a bunch of individual birds.

Then I noticed two other birds trying to catch up with the group. They were consistently out of sync, however, so in the time that I was watching, they never got into the group’s rhythm. The two flew too far to one side, then too far behind, then they turned in the wrong direction. Just when it seemed they were about to join the group, the flock would change direction and the two stragglers would be left behind again.

It was almost as if the flock was rejecting them, although I know this is anthropomorphizing birds—assigning human qualities where none exist. I doubt that flocks of birds have admission criteria or carry grudges.

Maybe the two laggards were injured—or were young and still learning the rhythm of the flight. Maybe they were newcomers trying to fit in. Or maybe they were just bad fliers. Not knowing much about birds, I have no idea what might have been going on. I just remember looking at those two stragglers and thinking they were like lost souls trying to find their way home.

We all know what that feels like: to be left out, left behind, or simply left. We all know what it is like to be out of sync or inexperienced or the “new guy.” And sometimes we just don’t measure up to expectations—we are simply bad at fitting in or finding our way.

What helps us to get over this feeling of left-ness? The kindness of others; the compassion of friends and loved ones; the forgiveness of our shortcomings and faults; the willingness of others to make space for us.

And because we ALL know what it feels like to be those left-behind stragglers, it seems fitting that when we see others who are struggling to catch up, that we make space for them, forgive them their failings, and show them compassion and kindness—the very things that help bring us into the fold when we are lagging behind.

This holy season, what people is God putting your path and inviting you to welcome into the flock? Look closely: I’m sure you’ll see someone who needs help finding their way. And when you figure out who it is, be Jesus to them.

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