Oh how I love to watch the many hummingbirds buzzing around my feeders! Four of the feeders I have on the property are in a small, contained area in the plumeria courtyard, just outside my kitchen windows. Two of the feeders are inches away from a window. At dusk, the lighting is such that the hummingbirds cannot see me through the window. I can literally have my nose 8 inches away from the sugar-seeking little hummers, and they have no clue that I am there!
More than a dozen hummers have been at one feeding station at the same time, and for the most part, they get along just fine! Unlike many hummingbirds, mine seem to respect each other and will even relinquish a coveted spot at the sugar-hole when another hummer comes in for a landing. I imagine them chatting to each other, “You first!” “No, YOU first!” “After you! I insist!” They are extremely kind to each other.
One hummingbird in particular stands out. She is not very colorful, and she is smaller than the others. She is not afraid of me, and will enjoy sugar from the feeder while it is in my hand! She never grumbles when “her” feeder gets crowded, and happily helicopters near by to make room for someone else to get some sweet nectar. She is warm, welcoming and hospitable. She’s my favorite. When I grow up, I want to be like her. Goals.
Among the other hummingbirds who grace the grounds of Calmin Cottage is the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, and my beloved Anna Hummingbird. The Anna is the one I mentioned who is my favorite. She is sweet, sharing, kind, hospitable, and seems to put the needs of the other hummer’s before her own. She’s like the Mama-hummer, taking care of everyone else! She will readily give her sugar-hole to another hummer without argument. Sweet Anna loves her sugar-seeking friends with a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. I could watch her all day long!
If only we humans would choose to love like Anna. But no, instead, we often demand our own way. Our love is offered with expectations. “I will love you if . . .” or “I will love you when . . . ” You can fill in the blanks. We withhold our love and affection from those who don’t behave how we want them to. We punish them by shooing them away from our sugar-hole. We respond to those who disappoint us in a punitive manner, intending to hurt them to teach them a lesson. God is never punitive. This kind of response is human, to be sure, but God calls us to a higher response. A response of LOVE. Unconditional love with no expectations or requirements attached. The manner in which my sweet Anna loves.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 “LOVE suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether (where) there are prophecies, they will fail; whether (where) there are tongues, they will cease; whether (where) there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”
Mark 12: 30-31 “‘And you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. and the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
If my sweet Anna was human, I know that she would exemplify the biblical description of love. My little Allen hummingbird . . . well . . . not so much.
The Allen is a spectacular hummingbird whose tail and sides are an Autumn-y orange-brown. It has a green back and crown, and has a red iridescent throat with a white collar. The Allen is stunning! I first noticed this particular Allen when it was performing its spectacular U-shaped dive display rising 25 feet up on each side! After several swings, it spirals 75-100 feet high then dives, making a loud whistling sound at the bottom of the U-turn. The male tries to impress females with this dramatic display, and the female frightens territorial intruders with the same maneuver. It is truly amazing to watch, very dramatic, very powerful. Quite self absorbed and demanding his own way, he often finds himself alone, sadly sipping sugar and probably wondering why he has no friends.
My particular Allen perches on a Bird of Paradise leaf near his favorite feeder. He sits there all day, all puffed up, just waiting for someone to come near. When another hummer comes near, he lashes out, and chases them away. The only neighborhood bird who can match his bossiness is the oriole. When the oriole comes in for a sugar fix, the Allen stays put, not wanting a fight with the magnificent yellow and black oriole.
There he sits. All day. Alone. Maybe not even realizing that the reason he is alone is because he chases everyone away. Sadly, he may even think he is somehow helping the other hummers to behave appropriately by pointing out their faults to them. He is the only hummer I have witnessed actually open his mouth wide in an aggressive manner at another hummer. Literally dozens of other hummers are enjoying each other’s company and sharing nicely at the other feeders. Not so for the lonely aloof Allen. He is opening his beak and spewing accusations and slurs at anyone who draws near to him. Sorry, Allen, you’re not much fun to be around.
Of course, I cannot begin to understand the motive behind the Allen’s behavior, but if he were human, my guess would be it’s all about control. He wants to control who comes and goes, and which hummers get to feed together and which hummers are rejected. He wants to control the feeding times and habits of all the birds because, clearly, he owns the patent on sugar control and others-control. But not self-control.
Galations 5:22-23 says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” SELF- control. Not others-control, not spouse-control, not friend-control, not colleague-control. Get the picture? Once we get a grasp on the SELF-control part, everything else falls into place.
Let go. Let God. Be nice. Be considerate. Love others. Don’t demand your own way. Love suffers (is patient) for a long time. True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on. That means, don’t be an Allen and chase them away. Be like the Anna and love them regardless of their differing opinion or way of thinking.
Let’s take a minute to go back and replay some past conversations in our minds. Replay a recent conversation with your spouse. A child. A family member. A friend. A co-worker. Do you like what you hear? Are you OK with that? Did you speak love? Lovingly? Selfishly? Demanding your own way? Consider for a moment all of your current relationships. Are they filled with conflict? Do you have conflict at home, at work, in your neighborhood, within your extended family, with your friends? If so, what’s the common denominator? What one thing does all of your conflict have in common? Is it you? Wouldn’t it be nice if that conflict was gone? Let it go!
We are called to be salt and light to this world, in order to do that, we must represent Jesus well! To represent Jesus well, we must LOVE God and LOVE others. Listen to the words you use to respond to those who visit your feeder. How do you sound? What do you say? Do you sound loving and kind? If not, it’s time for a heart check up. When we speak love, not only do we represent Jesus well, but we have JOY! Our hearts are happy and produce good things! The words that come out of our mouth indicate what is in our heart.
Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.“
Love does not envy. If our love is truly directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than allowing it to annoy us. In fact true love does not seek it’s own way, rather love makes a way for others. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, comfort zones, and so called entitlements for the good of another.
Love is not provoked. That is, love is not easily angered or overly-sensitive. When we love without expectation, we are seldom disappointed. When we love with the requirement of expectations, oh man, what disappointment awaits. Love means being like the Anna, and graciously sharing our sugar-hole with those who God brings into our lives.
Are you like the Anna? Are you graciously sharing your love, your time, your gifts and your spot at the sugar-hole? Or are you like the Allen, arrogantly judging and ridiculing those who enter the spaces of your life; allowing the root of bitterness and discontent to take root in your heart? How do you react to your spouse when they make a decision you don’t agree with? How do you treat your parents when you don’t see eye to eye? How do you treat your children when they misbehave? How do your treat your adult children when they choose a path of which you disapprove? How do you respond to your friends who don’t agree with your point of view? Are you going to drive them away like the Allen, aggressively opening wide your beak and spewing ugliness at them? Do you continue to educate others about their many faults, knocking them to the ground with the log in your eye while pointing out the speck in theirs? Or do you speak love and invite them to your table like the Anna? Just asking.
There may be people who cross our paths whom we would be better off avoiding. Maybe they are abusive, or just mean, and it’s not healthy for us to spend time around them. That’s OK, we are not required to be BFF’s with everyone. It’s like this: your neighbor has a dog. You want to make friends with the dog, so you put your hand over the fence to pet it. The dog bites you. You never have to put your hand over that fence again! BUT, you can’t walk by and kick dirt at the dog, or throw rocks at it. You can, however, walk away, and never be in contact with that dog again.
Lord, help me to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove as I seek to re-gift the wonderful gift of love you have bestowed upon me. Teach me to be a good steward with such a valuable gift, while still being generous with it. Help me to see others through the lens of Jesus Christ, not through the lens of my selfish ways. Forgive me for the times when I have behaved like the Allen hummingbird, and help me to be more like the Anna. Thanks for putting up with me and my miserable ways. Without You, I would be doomed to be like the Allen. I love You and Praise You, my Lord and Savior, my God and Father.