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Take Up Your Crossbill

You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.” ~ Genesis 32:28

Crossbills are unique in a number of ways. They don’t have predictable migration, instead roving about in groups looking for food, settling in for extended periods when they discover an abundance. Likewise, they don’t have a specific breeding season, instead choosing to nest when they have sufficient access to food. Their unique food explains their name. Their bills have evolved to work as pliers, specially adapted to pry seeds out of pine cones. Each mandible is curved and pointy, they are so long that they cross.

It is tempting to imagine a miracle of instantaneous creation that placed these marvels in this niche, but consider how miraculous the journey to get here must have been: natural selection favoring the offspring with the peculiar bills often and long enough to produce the particular piece to fit the puzzle. The story of Jacob wrestling the angel is a similar tale of a miracle unfolding over time. He strives with God all night and prevails at morning’s light to receive a blessing.

This is where the story takes a surprising turn. The “blessing” is permanent injury. His miracle is a battle scar. That scar, like crossed bills, is a tool. Israel’s tool (oh yeah, part of the blessing was a name change) was a lens to understanding the divine differently. This new perspective is that even though our arms are indeed too short to box with God, we are still expected to contend with God because God enters the ring with us, expecting to go a few rounds.

If we can see the holy hand of the creator in making Crossbills struggle to find food, home, and family instead of simply providing, then maybe we can also accept the miracle of our our struggling with the divine for blessings that we didn’t necessarily set out for.

Prayer: Creator, when growth means mutation, remind us that healing is more than cure, but involves adapting to the ways you are always breaking into our lives. Amen.


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