American Kestrel

Fisherman have stories about the one that got away. So do birders.

A week or so ago I was doing a few touch-ups on painting a house. I was up on a ladder trying to use a stiff bristle brush to fill the correct color of brown into some deep spots in the stucco. A flash of movement at eye level drew my attention to the side. A kestrel had flown into the top of a short palm in the neighbor’s yard. Thanks to the ladder, the bird and I were at each other’s eye-level.

The bird has been on my list of species I wanted to get a picture of for this blog. I see them all the time, but they are always too high up to get a good picture. They also are too shy, and fly when I try to approach them. Now here I was, up a ladder, with my hands full, and the perfect picture is just 30 feet away. It preened and posed and flashed out its wings in a display—all the things that would have made for a great picture over the next few minutes. I quickly finished what I was doing and started down the ladder, but the bird flew off as I did.

I asked my mom, who is also a birder and who lives in the house, if she had seen a kestrel hanging around. She indicated she had never seen one there, so it was unlikely I would be able to stake out the spot and wait for it to return.

This situation caused me to think about life’s frustrations and disappointments. How do you reconcile yourself to the one that got away? For most people it won’t be a bird but maybe a job, an investment, a moment with our kids, or maybe a relationship we failed to pursue. The experience of looking back and realizing we missed an opportunity is common to us all. But what does that mean in terms of God’s work in our lives?

It would be easy to blame God, believing He dropped the ball. He should have worked out the situation in our favor. At a basic level this reaction is accusing God of not giving us the best.

But in reality He always gives us the best, we just don’t always have the perspective to see it. Opportunities may not be as wonderful as we thought they were from a distance. Perhaps the job would have been beyond our abilities and damaged our careers. Perhaps the extra wealth would have trapped us into a sinful pattern.

It comes down to a trust issue. Do you trust God? Such a hard question to answer! It is easier to lie to ourselves than to answer truthfully. We know we are supposed to trust God so we answer, of course I do. But a more honest approach comes from examining how we evaluate the one that got away. If you trust God, believing that it got away because God had a better plan, then you really are living in trust.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. James 4:13-14 (HCSB)

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