by Nan Corbitt Allen
They’re loud and demanding and messy. No, I AM NOT talking about my grandchildren.
I’m talking about seagulls.
Recently, my husband and I were on the Gulf Coast of Florida taking a few days of R & R. We spent a couple of days just sitting on the beach watching the waves and the dolphins roll in and out of our view. And though I’ve been to the beach many times, I always learn something each time I go. (Maybe it’s because I choose to look for something new.) Anyway, this time I chose to watch and learn from the seagulls.
They’re scavengers, no doubt, and they find no shame in begging for morsels from unsuspecting beachcombers. Reflection: don’t throw out anything edible if you don’t want to reenact a horror scene from a Hitchcock movie. This I already knew from experience.
Observation: seagulls are almost always found in flocks. You hardly ever see one alone (no matter what the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull implies). Sometimes it’s a small flock, sometimes a huge herd. But I knew that, too.
Here’s what I did learn: Seagulls in a flock, while on the ground, face in the same direction. It was funny at first. A single gull might fly off for a few minutes, then return and resume the position as if compelled to fit in or because he was being careful not to ruffle the feathers of the alpha male or a higher-up in the pecking order. Was it east or west or what that lined them up facing one way?
Finally it dawned on me. They all seemed to face into the wind.
When I got home, I did a little research and found that this was exactly what they were doing. It was the wind that determined their on-ground direction, and for a bird of flight, that is important. Seagulls need to vacate the beach quickly when danger arrives or when a food source suddenly becomes available. If their tail feathers are facing the wind they would be less aerodynamic and more in danger of getting saltwater, sand, or debris under their perfectly designed down and feather covering.
It just makes sense. They protect themselves from harm, by always being ready for flight by leaning into the wind.
Eagles can soar to great heights, and like Isaiah tells us, “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles” (Is. 40:31 CSB). Ducks can fly long distances but not necessarily so high. (That’s maybe why they are sometimes easy shots.) However, you have to give them credit for endurance. Like James says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2 CSB).
Eagles fly high, and sometimes so do I. Ducks fly far, and often perseverance is required of me.
But seagulls stand on the shore, feel the wind on their beaks, and wait for the next thing. Right now, I’m not really soaring to great heights or flapping furiously for distance. Often I find myself …waiting…leaning into the wind a little, and trying to respond as the wind’s direction changes, ready for whatever is coming.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:1-4 ESV
About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections, most of these works in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner for her musicals written with Dennis, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed across the U.S. and around the world. Throughout their writing careers together, Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan lives with her husband Dennis in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University.
Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant experiences that can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s. Bible passages given throughout the book make this a book for all readers.
Join the conversation: What kind of bird do you find yourself most like at present? Soaring the heights? Flying long distances? Or facing into the wind, ready for whatever God has for you next?