I’m watching a Great Blue Heron swoop across the canal behind our home and land inside a drainage pipe on the other side about 30 feet away. Such a majestic creature, a beautiful vision to the eyes. And yet it stands on the edge of the opening peering into the water, unseen from above, hoping to find a tasty fish for breakfast. Happily (for me and the local fish) after awhile it gracefully departs looking for a better place to prey.
I’m actually writing this from my backyard where at a little further distance I have a “birds-eye” view of an old piling post that is the favorite resting spot for many birds. Lately a local osprey has been very lucky there catching fish. I actually had to stop watching this drama of nature the other day given the osprey’s style of enjoying its meal (no details to be provided).
It’s Valentine’s Day, a day devoted to sharing love with others. As I thought about the heron and watched the osprey on this day of hearts I was reminded of how important it is to guard our hearts, especially when the situation may seem otherwise. How exquisite these birds, yet they are birds of prey. They represent my often thought about the both/and life we live. How can such beautiful creations be cold hearted killers? How do we live in joy when there is so much sorrow? How does the greatest sorrow often reveal over time an even greater joy? That constant tension seems to be prevalent even in the simplest sights in nature.
Yet the heron’s tactics this morning revealed another aspect, that of how something can appear good and beautiful, and perhaps it is in many ways, and yet it is not what it seems, at least to the fish! So often we are tempted to love, whether it be another person, or idols such as money, power, a different job, a place to live, a relationship, situations that seem to have so many possibilities, that seem amazing. Yet when further investigated, we learn that it would have been better to have guarded our hearts.
How do we know which way to respond? Being open, vulnerable, and loving are beautiful traits. Yet this is not a perfect world and even Yeshua found himself in situations where he needed to have His defenses up! So how do we live freely, openly, with love in our hearts when the world around us may not necessarily be kind or deserving of our trust, despite its often beautiful packaging and tempting allure?
Just as you can’t put on a bulletproof vest once the bullet approaches, when we awake each morning in prayer and thanksgiving, we are preparing our hearts for the blessed day we have been given. I like to start with the Modeh Ani prayer to express my gratitude to our Abba for His faithfulness in returning my soul to me each morning, the breath of life. Starting our day in love and gratitude calms us, centers us in Him, in our knowing that God has our backs. We have our parts to play too as we put on our armor of God so beautifully guiding us in Ephesians.
As we throughout the day remind ourselves through Scripture reading, prayer, and deliberate thought of our relationship with God we sense His protection and are reminded to keep our eyes on the prize of life in Him. When we do so, we are better able to get our priorities right. We make better choices. That job opportunity seems great but is it going to advance my life with Him? Will I still be able to spend time with my family? Do my co-workers seem to have similar values as I do? Is God important in their lives? Does the company culture seem to be one of love and kindness? The office looks beautiful but what’s inside?
Will that striving for more ultimately bring us so much less? You can substitute relationship, money, possessions, for job in that last paragraph with the applicable descriptive nouns and pronouns. The criteria stays the same.
It’s a beautiful feeling to live each day with an open heart. Days filled with love of another, kindness, and service make this life a blessing to us and to those around us. That openness is so better guided when we remember to keep our Abba front and center as we try to make the best choices we can. It becomes tangibly possible to do so as we feel the intimacy, the closeness of Yeshua sitting right next to us, walking at our side, guiding those choices with His Presence in our hearts.
Yes, we can enjoy the beauty but not succumb to distortions of it that can lead us away from Him when He is our guide in life. Keeping Him front and center helps us not be misguided by the superficial, and instead, helps us to see what’s really inside.
Not all beauty or opportunity is bad. We just need to stay close to HaShem as we walk in the ways of Yeshua, to pray, and not be prey.