Get Off My Lawn!
For if you forgive others their trespasses, God will also forgive you. ~ Matthew 6:14
Most birds get aggressive toward others of their species when they get too near their nest or encroach on what they consider their territory. Some birds will team up to drive away predator species. But the unquestioned champion of the grumpy old bird competition has to be the Northern Goshawk. Their loud, shrieking call is apparently their language for “Get off my lawn!” When nesting, a male Goshawk is extremely busy keeping the area clear of all trespassers. Not only does all mean ALL, the area protected can be up to an eighth of a mile around the nest. Goshawks are not only interested in clearing their territory of other Goshawks, or even other birds. They will drive off other perceived threats, some as large as deer.
Of course, this means that human trespassers will receive the same treatment. The best look I ever had of a male Goshawk was when it came screeching at my head because I had the audacity to stop and look at him. The look would have been better if I hadn’t needed to duck, but at least I didn’t have to hit the ground like one of my fellow birders did once. He claims to have the shirt ripped by the birds talons as a memento!
You have to feel sorry for these overworked birds, who perceive far more threat than exists. Can you imagine attempting to keep every creature off your property? Once started, where does it end? And more property only means more trespassers to run off. When Jesus taught us to pray for forgiveness for our trespasses, he coupled that with our forgiving trespassers. This begs the question about what is being trespassed. We treat the gifts entrusted to us by the Creator as if they belong to us. If we are caught in a cycle of seeking forgiveness for violating property rights and forgiving those violating our property, the perhaps one teaching of the prayer is that we have mistaken what is our property. We have all known what it feels like to be violated, having nothing to do with external possessions. These are the sort of trespasses that have real impact, requiring forgiveness.
Forgiveness is only a step in the more essential process of reconciliation. Breaking free from the trespass/tresspassed-against cycle allows the space to seek restored relationship with others, and ultimately with God.
Prayer: Heavenly Gardener, may we care for your lawn on earth as you care for your lawn in heaven. Amen.