Sometimes.....Love Doesn’t

When my kids were little, I stumbled upon a hummingbird nest next to our house.  This discovery was made as I was attempting to trim a large bougainvillea that was getting a little out of control when suddenly I was being repeatedly dive bombed by a rather aggressive hummingbird.  After my surprise of having come across such a bold little bird, it occurred to me that perhaps I was near a nest as they are normally quite docile.  Sure enough, as I scanned the branches of the plant I was preparing to trim, I saw it, an organic little bowl, about the size of a ping pong ball.  

As fortune would have it, the branch containing this little jewel was positioned about a foot from the kitchen window.  I went inside, gathered the kids up onto the kitchen counter and from there, protected by a couple panes of glass, our little bird allowed us to watch all we wanted.  As a family, we got to observe the whole process of watching two little eggs about the size of bumble bees eventually hatch and reveal their weak and fragile contents.  In the beginning the baby birds were so small and emaciated, the only thing that gave away they were still alive was the flutter of their little lungs as they breathed.   Day in and day out the devoted mother would bring them food and keep them warm.  Eventually they grew to the point they were almost as big as their mother and actually looked silly with their lower halves shoved into the nest and their upper bodies bulging out the top.  

Then one day it happened....and we were there to see it.  They started to beat their wings.  At first they would rise up about an inch or so and hover briefly before coming back down into the nest.  Then they flew about a foot to neighboring branches.  About 10 minutes later they had flown to the wall about 8 feet away, and soon after they were gone, never to return.  

It was a little sad to be at the kitchen sink for the next day or two and see the momma bird come back and frantically scan her empty nest in search of her babies to no avail.  Among all the little wonders we were able to observe during the whole process, one of them was a demonstration of success.  Sad as it was to see the baby birds fly away, their departure was the ultimate sign of the mother’s triumph.  She had raised babies that now no longer needed her to survive and were off to thrive on their own. 

Built into nature's system of parenting is the inability for parents to provide total comfort for their spawn.  In this case, while the babies were tiny, the mother could adequately feed them and keep them warm.  But as they grew, she could not keep up with their growing appetites and, at the end, could not even fit into the nest anymore to cover them.  Ultimately, part of what lead to the babies independence was the discomfort they had to have been experiencing, crammed into a nest that was too small for them and constantly hungry as momma just couldn’t keep up any more.  What they needed was to venture out on their own and find their own way. leave the nest.  

When it comes to the application of love in this life, both with our children and other people, it can be difficult.  As they say, there is no handbook for such things, and while love is a powerful and beautiful motivator, the application of love requires great wisdom.  We can’t always rely on what feels best to us to be our guide.  Watching the baby birds struggle to break out of their eggs was difficult for my kids to watch as in their tender little hearts they wanted to go outside and help them.  They didn’t understand that had they done so, the babies almost certainly would have died, not having benefited from the strength gained from their struggle to be born.  It might have felt better to go out and build a bigger nest for them to fit in as they appeared to be in great discomfort in the tiny one they occupied.  It might have felt good to assist the mother in getting them enough food by going out and feeding them sugar water from an eye dropper.   And while each of those things might have felt good, they would have ultimately reduced and perhaps prevented all together the success of those birds.  

When it comes to applying love, one of the options that is most difficult to embrace is the idea that sometimes the most loving thing to do for another person is nothing at all.  And the greater difficulty is knowing when that is the best move and when it is detrimental.  

They say give a man a fish and he eats for a day but teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.  What is not mentioned in that little bit of wisdom is that it might take awhile to teach the man to fish.  It might require committing to a long enough relationship with the man to mentor him into a position of being proficient.  It also requires patience, as the fisherman may have to painfully watch the man learn, when he could easily catch another fish for him and be done for the day.  Lastly, it requires the ability to discern at what point to refuse to catch anymore fish for the man.  For what incentive is there for the man to put these new skills to use, if he knows someone will bail him out with a fish at the end of a day of failure.  At some point, there comes a moment that the best thing for that man is the reality if he doesn’t succeed on his own, nobody is going to save him.  And, like the hummingbirds, that do or die conundrum may be the motivation needed to complete his success in becoming a proficient fisherman.  The ultimate key comes down to the mentor’s ability to eventually say no to further assistance, a decision the mentor would have the greatest knowledge to make base on his personal relationship and understanding of the apprentice’s learned skills.  

The balance between doing good and doing what feels good can be a thin line, and sometimes love can’t be about what feels best....sometimes it's about what does best, however unloving that might feel.  


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