I cannot do it. Cannot keep up with the hunger. I cannot feed them all.
The bird feeder swings empty again in the harsh winds of March, and those who have not forsaken it by now hop about the tree with wondering eyes fixed on me, their supposed benefactress. But the supply has run out, and I am too weary and poor to replenish it. The hunger of winter outpaces my resources.
Simply to feed the birds - am I too feeble, even for this?
My joy turns sour. My ears turn cold. My kindness falls short.
Yet despite my empty vessel, the sun shines and the jays still flash blue and the chickadees sing. They have a Provider. My humble offering will not, cannot, sustain these hundreds of wings. It was never meant to.
Perhaps they have been the ones sustaining me, all this time. Here at the feeder, beauty has been gathered into my view. I have seen the colours of joy. I have heard the tongues of heaven. I have been graced with the soft brush of feathers in the snow. I thought I was doing them a favour. Perhaps this feeder has been God's gift to me all along. And he keeps giving. He keeps showing favour. He keeps sending the birds.
No matter how much I prepare, the realities I hunger for are still gifts from above. That is what Lent reveals. That at the end of the day, we are all empty handed. All in need of grace. All in need of manna.
I alone cannot create what I wish to be. But I can look to my Creator with an open mouth. And tonight, as he breaks the bread, I can swallow the grain that must fall to the earth and die. As I am brought face to face with my emptiness, once again, I remember,
"The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing." (Psalm 145:15-16)
All are welcome to gather in the swinging shadow of emptiness, where the ground is still cold and barren. He will open his hands to our insatiable, piercing hunger, and offer himself as bread for our need. Here at the foot of a leafless tree, he will spread a banquet in the presence of his enemies. From this cracked grain, he will give life to the world.
Here at the empty feeder, we will be fed.