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How to Trap a Hummingbird: Feeling Cornered and Alone


A little hummingbird trapped himself on my back porch. We were working in the backyard and had the porch door open, and it flew onto the back porch and was desperately trying to free itself in the far corner.

I’m not sure why it believed an exit existed in the far corner of the porch, but it reminded me of the prodigal son who went to the far country and trapped himself. So I got the broom and tried to chase it off the back porch, but every time I had it in position to fly out the door, it would do an unbelievable stunt and shoot back to the far corner and start banging against the wall, looking for its own exit—distrustful of mine.

I’ve since learned that no other bird can do mid-air stunts like the hummingbird, which can fly forward, backward, hover, and even fly upside-down. And they do all of this so fast we can’t detect it with the naked eye. They can beat their wings 200 times a second. And the one on my back porch was quite the acrobat.

No matter what I tried, the little bird faked me out and headed back to the far corner. And this went on for a while, until it exhausted itself and clung to the wall with its webbed feet. I put the broom down and retreated into the backyard, letting it catch its breath. When Jill got home, we tried to guide it to freedom with two brooms. Again it kept flying into the far corner, and I wondered if it understood we valued it and were trying to save its life.

Maybe you feel cornered and alone. Maybe you’ve been deceived by sin. Now you feel ashamed and can’t believe you fell for its deception.

If you are perishing under the guilt and power of sin, it is because you are being deceived by your desires to feel secure. Sin is lying to you and you believe it. Sin is making promises it can’t keep and you are trusting in these false promises. Sin calls out, “This way to freedom and safety.” And we follow, only to become trapped.

Anthony Hopkins' character in the movie, The Edge, says, after their plane crashes, “You know I once read an interesting book which said that most people lost in the wilds, they die of shame. They say, ‘What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?’ And so they sit there and they die, because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives, which is thinking.”

Thinking thoughts of shame never leads to freedom. Shame tells us, “You’ve ruined everything. You’ve ruined your life, your family, your health, your finances, so stay in the corner. Make the best of life in your dead-end.” And this is when life takes a turn for the worse, because our selfish desires become self-indulgence. We do whatever it takes to alleviate our shame and make us forget that we’ve flown into sin’s trap.

We hoped the hummingbird would think its way out, because studies have shown that hummingbirds can remember every flower they have ever visited. They can recognize humans, and know which ones can be trusted to refill their bird feeders. But it had never been trapped before, and a broom had never chased it, and no matter how long we left it on its own, it could not think its way out.

We know how to run from God and how to cling to false security, but we really don’t know how to let God free us, because God’s way to freedom can look a lot like death. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:25-26).

Bonhoeffer once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

To be lost is to be found.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote, “Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us from snares.”

Sometimes salvation looks like trouble. It looks like a mighty God with a broom. But if we can learn to trust the hand that guides the broom, it will lead us to freedom, which is what eventually happened with the hummingbird. So what is the way of Jesus? How do we find freedom when we are cornered and alone?

To be freed is to let go. To let go means we confess that we will never be our own God. We need help. “… call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).

I love the story Henri Nouwen told about becoming friends with some flying trapeze circus people. Their acrobats fascinated him, and he even traveled with them for a week, taking note of their stunts, the way I took note of the hummingbird’s stunts.

One day I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am a great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher.

He has to be there for me with spilt second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in a long jump.”

“How does it work?” I asked.

“The secret,” Rodleigh said, “is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catch bar.”

“You do nothing!” I said, surprised.

“Nothing,” Rodleigh repeated. “The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms that his catcher will be there for him.”

Dying to self is the way the catcher catches. We stop striving to be caught and fall, which will feel like fear. But His hands are strong. So let go of the far country and trust He will catch you. Trust the heart of the Father, the way the prodigal trusted his. He had to admit he was wrong. He had to return to the father’s way on the farm, even when he no longer knew his status within the father’s kingdom. But he knew he had to let go of the pigsty and he knew his father would catch him.

So look at the hummingbird. “Look at (all) the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Knowing your value to the Father is the way to stop shame’s onslaught and the way to discover freedom. So let God love you today, even when it looks and feels like fear. It could be a broom leading you to freedom.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

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