A Lesson in Futility

by Nan Corbitt Allen

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. Psalm 94:11 NIV

It’s winter. It’s cold. All of the deciduous trees in our yard are naked and much of the wildlife has either migrated or hunkered down to keep warm. Except the bluebirds. And a few sparrows.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my sunroom and heard a loud thwumpping sound at the window. That’s when I saw two bluebirds (one male and one female) hurling themselves at the glass. I tried to shoo them away, and they would leave momentarily, but then return exhibiting the same behavior. I felt so sorry for them and helpless as to what to do. Of course, when in doubt, search the Internet.

Google said that they might be seeing their reflections in the window and, believing themselves other birds making threats to their nests, they were fighting to protect their young. I saw no nearby nests, so I kept seeking a motive and a solution.

I wondered if they were hungry, so I put out some seed in the feeder only to find out later—online—that bluebirds don’t eat seeds. They are carnivores. They eat worms and bugs. The thwumpping continued. I was afraid these two beautiful birds would hurt themselves in their futility. Maybe they were trying to find warmth; but letting them inside my house would be more destructive, to them and my house, than helpful. Don’t birds have instincts and feathers that protect them from the weather?

I kept looking for reasons why these creatures were so persistent. And why at my window. Some superstitions say that bluebirds at the window are an omen—a sign of impending doom. Other superstitions say that these creatures are trying to deliver a message of glad tidings. Yeah. Right.

To me, of course, this was a metaphor that I became determined to unpack.

Like the birds, how often do we flail against an illusion—obsessed with a perceived threat—worried about failures in the past that might still plague us, or an imagined future catastrophe that probably won’t happen? We’re prone to exhausting ourselves by the mere thought of danger or disappointment, or both.

Or maybe we look at our reflections but don’t like what we see. Instead of making positive changes, we thrash about with self-loathing and revulsion.

And there is a possibility that we see only what we want to see, not what is really there. In the present political climate, this seems to be the most prominent illusion that makes us not only fight with ourselves, but with others. Families are being torn apart by opinion and preconceived notions.

No matter, it seems that all of these possibilities demonstrated by the bluebirds are driven by self-absorption—and/or fear. Jesus said this about that:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

These are my favorite prophet’s words: LORD, you are the one who protects me and gives me strength; you help me in times of trouble. Jeremiah 16:19 GNT


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. 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.

Join the conversation: Have you found yourself flailing about an illusion or something that never happened?

3 thoughts on “A Lesson in Futility

  1. So true!! I really like your paragraph: “Like the birds, how often do we flail against an illusion—obsessed with a perceived threat—worried about failures in the past that might still plague us, or an imagined future catastrophe that probably won’t happen? We’re prone to exhausting ourselves by the mere thought of danger or disappointment, or both.” That is right on target. Thank you, Nan!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How I can relate to this! Just this last week, I began to worry about the prospect of not being able to find a job I love after college. I have more than a year before I graduate college and begin a job search, and have no real reason NOT to believe God will put me where He needs me. And yet, I started to fear what may simply be a mere illusion.
    I wonder if God created the bluebirds to act in this ridiculous way, just to teach us a lesson about what we look like when we fear mere illusions.
    Thanks for your encouraged and wisdom Mrs. Allen 🙂

    Like

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