Great Blue Heron on its evening stroll, Taunton River, Sullivan, Maine
The Great Blue Heron arrived at dusk. It was fascinating to watch its delicate, unrushed, almost elegant walk as it lifted its long, thin legs before gently and quietly placing its feet between long pauses of listening and peering intently into the cold water.
This heron’s intentional hesitancy was a reminder of the immediacy in the ancient but ever contemporary admonition to be circumspect, to be wise, to make the best use of time and opportunity, to not be fools, and to “walk in wisdom…redeeming the time.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) (Colossians 4:5) That wisdom is vital and applicable to any race or creed because one misstep can be life changing. Although we can never relive even a single second, the Psalmist counseled “to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12; 39:4-5). He recognized that if we consider life’s brevity, we should be motivated to seek its purpose.
Despite the choices we make or those imposed upon us, or our circumstances, or our personalities, interests and abilities, we all struggle to find pleasure, peace, meaning, and purpose. We are also vulnerable to the shrill, disruptive, and sometimes rebellious voices of our culture or are distracted by the more soothing words of our intellectual, celebrity, and religious heroes whose wisdom isn’t always wise but is filled with half truths which reinforce what we want to believe. We want to believe that meaning lies within ourselves and our ability to make the most of ourselves, that we are self empowered, that freedom means being free to do what we want to do, that right or wrong is relative to the situation, and that there is no absolute moral framework by which to live.
As a result, we become easily conflicted and weirdly inconsistent as we resist the image, principles, and purposes for which we are designed and by which we are enabled to achieve what we actually want. Jesus succinctly and profoundly laid out the course to happiness by condensing the moral code into loving God with all one’s being and our neighbors as ourselves. This was given with a promise and a principle: when followed, one will live the best possible life. (Matthew 22:37-40) (Deuteronomy 6:1-3) Pleasure, hard work, wealth, relationships, and intellectual pursuits are unsatisfying and empty without God.
Obviously, we all fail at the ideal because we have trouble seeing beyond the world of our senses, have control issues, and are unforgiving and perverse. Even when we “believe”, our faith is defective. We regularly fail to meet the benchmarks of integrity, humility, love, compassion and forgiveness and constantly live in unwitting opposition to what God intends for us.
However, God has “redeemed” the days! Because of His compassionate, merciful understanding of human weaknesses, Christ has finished our struggle for goodness. He is the Way to redemption, forgiveness, righteousness, and restoration through the gift of faith. There is no guilt, shame or condemnation when living in this faith which goes beyond intellectual belief to a graciously empowered relationship and a “walk” of seeking the wisdom of God’s will that we believe and live the Gospel of mercy and grace. (Titus 3:5).(Galatians 2:16) (Romans 3:28)
Regardless of whether or not we are “people of faith”, this strange but beautiful heron speaks a cautionary tale: “Look carefully then how (we) walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” But even most importantly we should consider and live for the ultimate goal: Therefore (let us) not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)