Young American Coots

Coot Young

We normally think of baby birds as cute. But these young birds really don’t strike me as cute. Instead they seem kind of gangly, awkward, and maybe even clumsy. You guessed it! These are not babies, they are adolescents. While babies of any animal will evoke oohs and aahs, teenagers tend to evoke other emotions. I am sure you knew this about humans already, but this picture should help you to see it’s also true of many birds, such as these American coots.

Have you ever stopped to think about why? Although studying the stage of life may not make living with a teenager any more tolerable, it is possible to understand it. The reason for the awkwardness can be quickly summed up, they are the way they are because they are still growing up. Their size might well lead you to believe they are grown, but their experience level may not have taught them how to walk without tripping over their own feet yet.

I bring this up in this setting, because I think we would do better in many churches if we thought of Christians in more than two levels of growth. How is it that we expect believers either to be new believers, also called baby Christians or mature believers? What happens to all the awkward ages in between where they learn to walk and talk like a Jesus follower.

Given our habit of forgetting the growth process of a believer, I am not surprised so many Christians pretend to be more mature than they are. They have been a part of the family of God for too long to still be in diapers, and the only other choice they see is to be a person who has it all together. They know they really are not that person, but they don’t want to advertise their immaturity around the congregation, so they join the ranks of pretenders.

The situation is so serious that many Christians have no idea what a mature believer really looks like. The ranks are occupied by the pretenders. When this is the only example available, the higher mark of Christ-likeness is lost.

The only way to get beyond this malaise of mediocrity that has infested the ranks of Christendom is to undergo a God-guided growth process. Christ will point out sin in your life, and you go through the difficult work of dealing with it. A genuine Christ follower will be willing to work on themselves, will develop a record of successful character developments and will have their eyes on Jesus as their guide.

Ephesians 4:11-14 (HCSB) has a passage discussing what it looks like when we fully embrace this challenge in the church and its work. “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.”


American Coot

American Coot - Head

This is not a prop from a horror flick, nor is it a prehistoric creature. But you have to admit when you look at it this closely, it is a bit scary.

It is the face of a bird, and probably a bird you have often seen hanging around in city park ponds, or some other body of water. People seem to respond to it by calling it a funny looking, little black duck. They might even say it’s cute, but they are not down face to face with the creature.

In reality this is not even a duck. It is this is the same bird I highlighted last week, the very common, American coot. Last week I showed you just the foot, but today I give you the head, and that rather impressive white beak. The red eye makes him look even more menacing.

One of the tough lessons is to see things for what they really are. We see a situation and we think it’s cute, attractive or fun. We may not look close enough to recognize what we are seeing is a whole bunch of ugly dressed up in the devil’s best disguise.

But seeing through a deception requires something that is in short supply today. It takes time and attention. We are in a society that has reduced its social interactions to tweets and its entertainment to three minute YouTube clips.  We don’t look closely at anything anymore, neither do we take the time to evaluate the good and bad of situations with any degree of depth.

But if we want to live and walk as Christians, we must learn to see through the deceptions of the world and carefully evaluate what is right in every situation. Ephesians 5:15-16 (HCSB) Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

American Coot’s Foot

Coot Foot

This picture is the foot of a bird which is commonly found in ponds and marshes mingled with ducks. But it is not a duck and you can tell by looking at this foot. If it was a duck it would be a webbed foot. But it is not a duck; it is an American coot. Instead of a webbed foot it has lobed toes.

These lobes open when the bird pushes it backwards, causing the bird to be pushed forward. These lobes close when the bird pulls its foot forward, allowing it to reposition its foot for the next stroke when swimming.

These lobed toes have a similar affect when the bird walks on land. If it is in a muddy area the lobes will open up and increase the surface area preventing the foot from sinking into the mud. But when they are on hard ground and don’t need this feature, the lobes are out of the way and don’t hinder their movement. This allows them to be more agile on land than the ungainly ducks.

Opening up those remarkable toes gives the American coot quite a few advantages. For believers a similar affect can be found by opening our heart. Be careful how you hear this, though. We think of the heart in colloquial terms today which mislead us when trying to understand the Bible. In Scripture the word heart has little to do with emotions. Instead it is a storehouse of life issues. Everything from character to experiences are stored in the heart.

When I talk about opening your heart I am specifically thinking of opening it up for God to come in and order it. Then when it has been ordered by God, like any good storeroom, you will be able to open it again and draw out exactly what you need. In this storeroom God builds the different ingredients of giftedness, character, courage, and morality which make you the unique person of His design.  When you draw from this storeroom it allows you to live out His design.

Consider this verse from Ephesians 1:18-19a (NASB), “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”