Pacific Golden Plover
(…continued) To illustrate this let’s look at just two of God’s creatures. First, consider the Pacific Golden Plover. Everyone knows that many species of birds fly south in the winter, and it is fascinating to learn about the distances traveled by these delicate creatures, and their amazing built-in navigational instincts. The Pacific Golden Plover is particularly interesting. These birds spend their summers in the Arctic tundra of northern Alaska, and it is there that they breed. They spend their winters in Hawaii. Twice each year, they make this 3,000 mile trip over open water (thus, no landmarks by which to navigate), and it takes 3-4 days of non-stop flying. This is an amazing feat– but there is more. The new-born chicks in Alaska are able to fly when they are three weeks old, but it takes considerably longer before they are able to fly all the way to Hawaii. In fact, when the adult plovers are ready head south in late August, the still not-ready chicks are left behind. A few weeks later the young plovers depart—off on this 3,000 mile non-stop journey, over open water, to a place they have never been before; a few dots in the midst of the vast Pacific, the most remote place on the face of the earth. There is no adult guidance, there are no visual markers, and there is no GPS (other than the one God implanted in their little brains).
These birds, by instinct, are programmed to fly south every winter to that precise spot; and they all, always do that. There is no rebellion by the Pacific Golden Plovers, or by any other migratory birds. There is no saying ‘no,’ and there is no disobedience or not paying attention to the command. They all, always do what God wants them to do and created them to do.
Now consider another one of God’s creatures. Timmy is a five year old North American human being. God has made human beings much smarter than Golden Plovers. Timmy can talk, he can do a little math, he can follow directions, and he can even read a simple map. God has certainly given Timmy some incredible talents and skills that he did not give to Golden Plovers.
God gave Timmy something else he did not give to plovers. God gave Timmy a free will, so now even though Timmy is able to hear and understand and follow directions, he can choose to refuse to do as he is told.
Imagine this scene. Mommy and Daddy and Timmy are dressed and ready to go to church. Timmy is told to go out the front door, walk down the sidewalk 35 feet, get in the car parked on the street, and wait for his parents. He is specifically told to stay out of the huge mud puddle behind the car. Timmy clearly comprehends all of these directions. However, three minutes later when his parents come out of the house, they see Timmy jumping up and down in the mud. Timmy, unlike the young plovers, did not have 3,000 miles to go over open water with no landmarks to try and get to a place he has never seen. He only had 35 feet to go, down a clearly visible sidewalk, to a car he knows very well because he has been in it many times. And he is much smarter than any plover. Why couldn’t Timmy reach his goal?
Because he did not want to! He wanted to jump in the mud. God has given Timmy what he has not given to the plovers; the freedom to do what he wants. Pacific Golden Plovers do not say, “I don’t want to go to Hawaii this year.” God has programmed them to go every year. God has commanded Timmy to obey his parents, but God has given Timmy the free will to say no– and he does say no to his parents often.
We are not pre-programmed to love and obey God. We are free to turn our lives over to him, or to go our own way. God loved us enough to give us that freedom, so that when that love is returned, it is real love and a real relationship, and not the response of a robot or of animal instinct. This kind of freedom is the basis of any true relationship.
John 1:10-12 — He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Revelation 3:20 — (Jesus said), “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Lord, give me the help and guidance I need to practice these virtues in all my actions in today. For those ways I succeed in doing these things, I will give you thanks. For those many times I fail, I will seek your grace. When the day is done, I will rest in your peace, and tomorrow morning I will recommit myself to the same choices.
–Max Lucado (adapted)