Ordinary Miracles


Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. ~ Luke 4:13

In many bird species, molt pattern is a primary way to determine the age of a bird. Only hatch year birds have all fresh feathers. After that, birds replace their feathers in predictable patterns. It takes a lot of energy to grow a feather, so typically they replace a few with each molt once or twice a year. Think of it like working in new tires on your car when rotating them. Not all feathers are created equal. The handful that make flight possible are particularly critical. No bird would intentionally molt all of them at once, since that would mean they were grounded until the new ones grew in. Well, maybe not all birds, since that practice is somewhat common among ducks. It is called eclipse plumage and when a duck is in eclipse, it cannot fly.

If you have ever wondered where all the male Mallards went in the late spring, the reason is that they have molted from their usual colorful plumage and thus resemble the females or juvenile birds. The colors have served their purpose in attracting a mate and now they need to blend in for protection until they can fly again. The females also go in to eclipse plumage, but not until their young have hatched. They have no need to fly when they are bound to protect their flightless offspring.

What appears to be a design flaw, or perhaps a broken plan, ends up being a bit of brilliance. The risk involved by being unable to escape trouble is the price for a full replacement of feathers. If the gambled didn’t pay off, evolution would have corrected it by now. Instead, it is a sort of ordinary miracle. Not all miracles have to be spectacular in nature. Sometimes we experience help and healing that is not the flashy, headline making type. Perhaps it is finding lost money when you are waiting for this week’s paycheck. Maybe it is not catching that cold the is roaring through your family. Or maybe it is having a frozen lasagna in the freezer when your neighbor is just home from the hospital.

It is easy to think of the miracles of Jesus as only big and bold, but that long time he spent in the wilderness was effectively a string of ordinary miracles of finding the proper focus in each moment and each day. That is how the tempter is resisted, a little at a time.

Prayer: Mothering Spirit, thank you for choosing not to fly when we are helpless. Remind us of the miracles in the ordinary. Amen.

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