This past Memorial Day I was doing a little work on a house we are building (the same house that prompted this post) and noticed a bird’s nest in the garage, tucked in the corner of the breaker box. I was curious to see if there was anything in it; as it was fairly dark I had to duck very close, close enough that the brim of my hat was touching the wall, leaning far in to see what the nest might hold. I shouldn’t have been surprised when a little Carolina Wren exploded in my face, scaring the heck out of me and making my work-mate laugh. The wren had been incubating four eggs, and just as I startled her the eggs began to hatch. Tiny, raw life, hungry and peeping madly for attention. With all the obstacles the chicks faced (it’s hard enough for me to survive on a construction site!) I honestly didn’t give them much of a chance for survival.
Yesterday I went back to patch some sheetrock (dang electricians—it’s OK, though, since I cut one of their wires trying to square up the hole for the patch), and the little fellers are just fine. All mouth, just like my little one. If they can only hang on until the beginning of next week, they should be strong enough to leave the nest and start their own life. I sure hope they make it.
I’m not a tree-hugging animal-rights fruitcake, and I have absolutely no problem killing my own food, plant or animal; but I believe God intended humankind to care for life in all its forms, and needless suffering or death is a pity. God has shown His glory in creation, and has gifted us with an immeasurable responsibility to care for it. Wendell Berry once said something that applies:
If we believed that the existence of the world is rooted in mystery and in sanctity, then we would have a different economy. It would still be an economy of use, necessarily, but it would be an economy also of return. The economy would have to accommodate the need to be worthy of the gifts we receive and use, and this would involve a return of propitiation, praise, gratitude, responsibility, good use, good care, and a proper regard for the unborn. . . . Mostly we take without asking, use without respect or gratitude, and give nothing in return” (The Agrarian Standard).
And this from Elder Sophrony:
The Staretz [Elder; he is speaking of St. Silouan] used to say that the Divine Spirit teaches us to spare every living thing, and so not needlessly harm leaf or tree. ‘That green leaf on the tree which you needlessly plucked—it was not wrong, only rather a pity for the little leaf. The heart that has learned to love is sorry for all created things.’
The longer I clop around on earth, the more deeply aware I become of our place (I mean our as in humans) in the order of creation: a place of honor, but a place of accountability; a place infinitely above the rest of creation, ordered to “have dominion” over it, but so much the more responsible as stewards over our domain. This attitude of grateful, reverent, responsible stewardship goes against the modern consumer lifestyle, but it is a necessary part of fulfilling our calling.
I know it is a humorous example (the more so because it is a bit exaggerated), but if you have ever watched the movie The Gods Must be Crazy you have an idea what I am getting at here. The bushmen in this make-believe documentary hunt for food, but instead of just killing the animal outright they first shoot it with a numbing arrow so they might explain to the animal the hunter’s need to feed his family and thank it for providing for them. With the added proviso that we also offer thanks to God, this seems just about right to me.