Pecking At Pebbles

Have you ever tried to make something be what it can never be?

Annie and Emma are in the back seat at Sonic Drive-In, enjoying an after school snack while we sit with engine running. It’s unseasonably cold this week. So cold that there is no one dining at the outdoor tables, the same tables that smart sparrows know to be a smorgasbord of crumbs for them.

The sparrows are here this day, too, feathers fluffed against the wind and single digit temperatures. Looking for food in all the usual places, one sparrow flits under a red metal bench. Leaning down he picks up what must look to him like a tiny piece of a cast off tater tot or onion ring. He pecks it, picks it up and clamps down with his beak. But it’s not food. It’s a pebble that looks like food.

He drops it, looks at it, then picks it up again. Again he clamps down. Maybe it really is food but today it’s frozen food? Nope. Still a pebble. He drops it, hops away for about three seconds, looks back and returns to pick it up again. This time pecking really hard and trying to crush it in his beak.

Still a pebble.

Silly bird, I think. You can want it to be food. But it’s always going to be a pebble.

It should be easy enough, I reason, for even a bird to tell the difference between food and a rock. But then I think maybe that sparrow isn’t the only one having trouble figuring that out. We humans do our own pecking at pebbles.

Are you trying to make something be what it can never be?

Maybe you’re pecking at your job. You’re telling yourself that if you just work a little harder and adjust your attitude and suck it up and buy into what management is saying that you’ll come around and really like what you do…even though your heart is screaming because you know you’re hard-wired for something completely different.


Maybe you’re pecking at your dating relationship. He is a nice guy and it’s 90% pretty good and you’re telling yourself those nagging doubts you have that you never talk about aren’t really red flags at all. They’re just jitters and everyone has them and once you walk down the aisle all your fears will disappear and you’ll live happily ever after…even though the part of your soul that always tells the truth is telling you not to proceed because that missing 10% is the difference between forever joy and permanent misery.

Peck, peck.

Maybe you’re pecking at the relationship you have with a friend or family member struggling with an addiction. Yes, they drink more than you’d like them to but they function at a high level in spite of it and they aren’t like the other drunks you know. And if you just keep being the understanding friend then they’ll eventually see the light and change their behavior…even though your gut knows that their happy veneer is wearing thinner with every binge and their self-destruction is only an open bar away.

Peck, peck, peck.

Maybe you’re pecking at your relationship with God. You go to church every week except for the two times a year you’re sick and that Disney vacation to Orlando. Your Christianity is comfortable, like the fleece pullover you’ve had for years. It fits and it never rubs you the wrong way. In fact, it’s so comfortable you never think about it except lately you’ve been thinking about it and you don’t like thinking about it.

So you’re telling yourself that you’re far more dedicated than most people so why should you have these nagging thoughts that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to God than an hour on Sunday? Maybe if you just say “yes” to that committee and volunteer to work the nursery once a quarter then all your wondering about what it would be like to experience a raw, unedited, intimate, and unfiltered relationship with your Creator will be set aside like a church bulletin on Monday morning and you can go back to being comfortable.

Peck, peck. Peck, peck.

What are you pecking at, in spite of your better judgment, hoping that it will change?

Only you can answer that.

If you’re pecking at your job, ask God to point you in a direction suitable for the gifts and talents He gave you. He has “prepared good works in advance for you to do” (Ephesians 2:10). God will be more than happy to help you find your divinely designed sweet spot.

If you’re pecking at your dating relationship, ask God to help you discern between red flags and jitters. And as you do, write this down where you can see it everyday: Your absolute worst day as a single person is absolute heaven compared to your best day in a bad marriage.

If you’re pecking while you watch your friend’s addictive behavior send them into a death spiral, ask God for courage to do the right thing and intervene. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Better to speak truth into their life and have it rejected than to remain silent. There are some regrets you can’t afford to live with.

If you’re pecking at your relationship with God, ask God for more of God. Ask Him to help you break free of your comfortable ideas of who He is and allow Him to define Himself and His relationship to you by His own terms. It’s scary to let go of the familiar. Yet there is freedom when we finally do.

For what it’s worth, it’s that last one that I’ve been pecking on. Moving away from my ideas about God and moving toward God as He defines Himself. I still come back to the pebble sometimes, but I’m getting better at not holding it in my beak so long.

Hopefully the sparrows and I are getting smarter about that.

Todd A. Thompson – February 5, 2011

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