Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
Trust me! I can help you." The minute I spoke the words, I realized how utterly useless voicing them was, indeed how ridiculous my entire demeanor must be. There I was, crouching with hand extended, slowing walking forward, talking to a crow. And I didn't even like crows.
It was promising to be another crisp fall day in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. The sun was peering over the partly cloudy horizon as I took my daily morning walk. I was deep in thought, sorting through—well, to be honest, I was fretting about—the many details our pending move to Texas had imposed on the largely stress-free existence that I had grown accustomed to. As I rounded the corner and headed down the lane that runs along the Little League baseball field, my ruminations were interrupted by the obnoxious cawing of two crows. I quickly noticed the source of their consternation. In the grassy meadow, a third crow was jumping and flapping about, vainly attempting to fly. Somehow the scavenger had gotten his left wing stuck in the handle of a pink plastic bag. The poor bird had no chance whatsoever of getting airborne.
I gave the crow a wide berth and went on my way. His fellow crows would have to remedy his plight. And if they were unsuccessful? Well, one less crow in the world would not be a great loss, especially given the havoc these mean creatures can inflict on other birds.
I was only a few paces down the lane when the full importance of the crow's plight registered in my mind: Unless I do something, this hapless bird is going to die. I turned in my tracks. At first I remained a good distance away from the crow. Crows are capable of launching a dive-bomber attack so threatening that it elicits terror in the heart of anyone who evokes their ire. Despite what I surmised could be warlike chirping of the two potential assailants above, I decided to see if I could get near enough to the grounded bird to remedy his plight.
The imprisoned crow initially responded with a flutter-filled hop away from me. But soon he seemed to realize that he did not have the wherewithal to evade me, and he signaled his capitulation by collapsing in the grass, gazing at me. It was then that I spoke: "Trust me! I can help you." A fruitless, dumb gesture, I immediately thought. But how else could I assure the crow not only that I intended him no harm but also that I was his only hope for survival?
I would like to believe that the creature somehow understood my words. In any case, he didn't move a muscle—indeed, he appeared uncharacteristically calm as I advanced slowly but steadily in his direction. The crow seemed to have decided to entrust his life to my hands, for good or for ill. (Equally miraculous, from my vantage point, the two feathered dive-bombers kept their distance in the tree above.) Stealthily I moved in, until I was so close that I could have actually touched the small body that lay motionless in the grass in front of me. I repeated softly, "Trust me! I can help you." Then I reached out with both hands, carefully tore the plastic and pulled away the pink prison that had held the crow captive.
Mission completed, I resumed my walk. I became engrossed once again in my interior world, filled with the concerns about our pending move—selling a house, dealing with the immigration process, hoping that a position would open up for my wife. Again my thoughts were interrupted by a short series of caws coming from three crows flying overhead. As the birds expressed what seemed to be their gratitude, the words I had voiced just a few moments earlier reverberated in my mind: "Trust me! I can help you." But this time, they were not spoken by me, but to me.
I continued my morning walk, musing about how often our loving heavenly Father speaks to us in the midst of difficulties, and about the response—faith—that his words are designed to engender in us. And I was quick to draw the obvious lesson: Just as the hapless creature needed to admit the hopelessness of his plight, cease struggling, and trust me unconditionally to receive my assistance, so also we must entrust ourselves to God.
As important as this connection is, it was not God's message for me that crisp fall day. My musings took me to a deeper question: Why did the bird exercise faith? Only then did I glimpse what stands at the heart of the great mystery of trust: The crow had realized in his own way what we are called to realize. We only become willing to risk all and take the bold step of genuine faith—of entrusting ourselves to God fully, completely, unreservedly, for good or for ill—when we see in this particular situation that God is our last and only hope.
Stanley J. Grenz is the Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology at Carey Theological College, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Other CT articles by Stanley Grenz from the Christianity Today Library include:
Drive-Through Christmas | The irony is that in our rush toward Christmas, we truncate the celebration. (Dec. 6, 1999)
Is Hell Forever? | Annihilationists anticipate one ultimate destiny for the wicked, an undifferentiated nonexistence. (Oct. 5, 1998)
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