O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a mother bird collects her babies under her wings—yet you refuse me!~ Luke 13:34
Most all birds protect their young by keeping them literally under their wing. We typically picture altricial birds when we think of nestlings. These are the species that are naked and blind when they hatch. They simply cannot survive without the protection of the adult. But these aren’t the only species that are gathered under the wing. The other possibility is precocial. No, not precocious, but there clearly is a connection. These are the birds that can begin feeding and caring for themselves immediately after hatching, think chicks. Precocial species are typically ground nesters, often with nests that are barely more than a cleared area in which to lay the eggs. These hatchlings start wandering away almost immediately, sometimes scattering from one another, not knowing the necessity of sticking close to their own kind, particularly the adults. This precocious behavior makes gathering the brood under the wing quite a challenge.
Jesus spent time longing to provide that protection for us precocious wanderers. He did a fair share of brooding about the brood that resisted being sheltered under God’s wing. Odd, isn’t it, that he had the power to multiply food, give sight to blind folx, and even raise a person from the dead, but didn’t exercise the power to compel us to do what makes us safe, well, and whole. It could be that the divine is incapable of that sort of compulsion. Whether through self-limitation or the wisdom that comes from love, God obviously has granted us the freedom to resist the warm, comforting, protection of being nestled into the holy bosom. I suppose any parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle who has ever forced a hug on a squirming toddler has a hint of that longing that Jesus speaks of as he laments over Jerusalem.
There is so much out of our control in this life and along with the freedom to choose to not let those things control us, comes the freedom to go it alone, even when our God longs to help us.
Prayer: Heavenly Hen, never stop chasing us, your precocious brood. Cover us with your mighty wing, smother us in your love. Amen.