by Dr. Gail Bones
Teaching the Book of Ruth has allowed me to spend delicious hours reading and studying and cross-referencing and pouring myself yet another cup of coffee. I’m tuning into tiny details, but also mindful of the bigger picture, looking for underlying structure and overarching themes. Stacked around me are lexicons and systematic theology texts, contemporary commentaries, and ancient tomes. As a natural-born nerd, big words and big ideas are my love language.
But ultimately, we are not training for a Bible Trivia Bee.
The point is that we would all learn to live conscious of the constant watchful care of a God who is full of loving kindness – aware that his unseen hand of providence guides our steps, encouraged by the truth that luck and coincidence are poor explanations for what is surely the work of God in our lives.
His Eye is on the Sparrow
When my daughter Emily was in junior high I used to drive her and a friend to ice-skating lessons on Saturdays. She and Jenny belted out the songs from the movie Sister Act, and I looked forward to their beautiful harmonies as they sang “His Eye is On the Sparrow” each week on the way home. I came to love that song.
Years later, our songbird became a bride and immediately moved across the country with her husband. That summer Jeff and I had our first taste of the bittersweet sorrow parents feel when the nest begins to empty. Our other child was still in college, but Jon was spending the summer on a missions trip to Brazil and so, after 25 years of parenthood, it was back to just the two of us.
We didn’t mope, but even as we were out enjoying our freedom as a couple again, something would remind us— a flash of blonde hair, or a snatch of a song she used to sing around the house— and one or both of us would be reaching for the tissues.
Out of the Nest
One sunny afternoon we noticed a convocation of swallows swirling about our backyard. Out on a rock in the center of the lawn perched two babies who’d fallen out of their nest. We watched in amazement as the bird community took turns swooping down and dropping off food for the fledglings.
Nightfall brought danger from cats and coyotes and so Jeff, friend of all animals everywhere, carefully scooped the two babies up and brought them into the house. He enjoyed caring for them, each morning carrying them back out to the rock where their friends continued to feed them. As the days progressed and they gained strength, Jeff began to nudge them onto his finger, which he’d then hold aloft so they could practice strengthening their wings.
…And I Know He Watches Me
But then came the day when, in a scene reminiscent of that saddest of childhood songs, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” (where one grey night it happened that Jackie Paper came no more), we went outside for the daily flying lesson and found the birds were gone.
Call it catharsis, but the two of us stood out on the lawn and sobbed.
We’d had one little bird fly away to Tennessee, and this was just another reminder that the keeper of the nest doesn’t get to keep the babies forever.
As we stood there, unabashedly letting our pent-up emotions spill out, something caught my eye. I looked up, and across the little valley our yard overlooks, I saw the flutter of unsteady wings.
Could it really be?
One of our fledglings was making its way toward us! It spun a long slow circle over our heads and, then wobbled its way back down the valley. Just as we had watched intently when Caleb and Emily’s car disappeared down the highway heading south, we kept our eyes fixed on the little bird until it was just a dot in the distance. We imagined that those little flapping wings were waving goodbye, and standing there like the sentimental fools we are, waved back, calling out tearful wishes for a long and happy life.
My Father’s World
That evening we attended an acoustic guitar concert. As the artist sang the hymn “This is My Father’s World,” we wept for the second time that day when he came to the line about the birds raising their carols to declare their Maker’s Praise.
You can call it coincidence.
I choose to call it the hand of the Almighty, whose eye is on the sparrow and who shows me— if I will but pay attention— that he truly cares for me.
Dr. Gail Bones, a former English teacher and professor of education, has been engaging audiences as a speaker, Bible teacher, songwriter, and worship leader for more than 35 years. In addition to her award-winning Bible study Living CrossWise: Hope and Help for Navigating Transition, her in-depth studies on Mark, Ruth and the Epistles of John have been adopted for use by many of the churches where she has been invited to speak. You can learn more about Gail by visiting her website: Gail, delighted to be a grandmother to 4 little girls, lives in San Diego, where happiness means always have one or more of the following in her hands: a dog leash, a sailboat tiller, a kayak paddle, bicycle handlebars, an acoustic guitar, or a hazelnut coffee and a big fat book.
Click here to listen bluegrass artist Jill Mason sing His Eye Is On The Sparrow
Click here to listen to Fernando Ortega’s version of This Is My Father’s World