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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God’s Will

If you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ then one of your goals should be to find and to do God’s will in your life. So an important question is, how do you find God’s will? This question probably seems pretty obvious, and it is on certain levels.

For example, if you are deciding what to do about a struggling business, your list of possibilities might include murdering your competitors, or stealing their merchandise. By being familiar with the Ten Commandments you can eliminate these two options and therefore you have come closer to finding God’s will by eliminating some possibilities. Other possibilities on the list might be eliminated because they don’t pass the test of basic morality.

In other words the simplest way to seek God’s will is to eliminate those things that are immoral or opposed to Scripture. But then how do you go further; how do you discern the issues about your personal life that are not scripturally grounded or morally based? For example, who to marry, where to live, what job to take in the church and in life—these decisions also need to be under God’s direction.

So in the details of life, how do you find God’s will? I am going to suggest three ways people approach these decisions. These are ranked from the worst to the best, in my opinion. If you disagree, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

  1. Don’t bother seeking God’s will on the ordinary matters of daily life. Instead assume God does not care about these things, and therefore those are the decisions that are up to you.
  2. Put the matter before the Lord in a prayer by giving Him a choice of a sign to speak through. A Biblical example of this is Gideon putting down the fleece. For you it might be anything from what the weather will be like on a certain day to whether a light stays green as you approach it.
  3. Allow God to speak to you in relationship. This means being active in prayer but instead of seeking God’s answer in an external sign, listen for an internal, still, small voice.

I believe the Christian life is a relationship and it’s in that relationship you will find God’s will. The first possibility above is not accurate because it assumes a disinterest on God’s part, or partial lordship. The second can have some application, but is so easily abused I would prefer people shy away from it. It quickly becomes the equivalent of putting God in a box, making Him do what we want instead of vice versa.