The tourists stood on the dock gawking at the birds.  “Look at that big white bird,” the woman told her two companions.  “Can you imagine that it’s so close to us?”  The magnificent white crane awkwardly raised its pencil thin leg from the shallow waters, gingerly taking a step and placing it again in the water. 

“Oh, look, over here.  There is a whole flock of baby birds just like it,”  her friend exclaimed,  pointing to a small flock of adult egrets playing in the shadows on the other side of the pier.  They stopped to stare at the “baby” birds, as I passed them, smiling.

I remember the first time I saw a white crane.  Of course, I still stop occasionally to watch her fishing in the shallow waters but egrets seldom get a nod from me.  I looked back over my shoulder at the five or six egrets playing and fishing in the shade of the neighboring dock.  I searched my brain trying to remember when I lost the wonder of these beautiful but common Central Florida coastland birds. 

Of course, I remember the first time I saw egrets forty-five years ago.  I recalled years of watching and wonder as I walked on the beach with my children.  But when did I become immune to their beauty and grace?  I could not recall. 

Almost immediately the scripture came to mind, “You have lost your first love.”  It was the accusation that Jesus leveled against the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4.  Often, I pray that God will inoculation me from this deadly disease of indifference.  Of course, I’m aware that the Lord was saying that the Ephesians no longer loved Him as they had at first.  That is a critical mistake that must not be made by Christians.

I also believe that it is a mistake into which ministers, teachers and pastors within the mentally challenged community can slowly slip.  I remember meeting an educator and Christian leader whom I had admired for many years.  I’d read his books and felt honored to share a meal with him.  Yet, it wasn’t long before I realized that this man no longer enjoyed his ministry or his mission.  I was old enough to realize that he was probably having a bad day and he was getting ready to retire.  I wasn’t disappointed with my encounter; but I did wish that I had met him a decade earlier when he was still enjoying working within the mentally challenged community.

I didn’t stop to admire the egrets with the tourist this afternoon.  It was their time to discover the beauty of these white fowl.  But I promised myself that I would stop the next time I was on that dock and admire them again.  I also asked God to continue to make me acutely aware of the wonder and privilege of being able to bring the Good News of Christ’s love to a population of people who are amazingly receptive to the gospel and eager to learn how to walk in His ways.

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