I’ve waited all spring for them. However, my aunt told me about migration charts and how I prepared too late for their arrival.
“Late April, early May,” she said.
My heart sank. There’s just something about hummingbirds that remind me about joy.
Maybe it’s the way they bring with them the warmth of summer after the bitter cold of winter. Perhaps it’s how, despite the incessant fluttering of their wings, time seems to stop as they hover mid-air over the feeders. The sight of them makes me feel alive, expectant; a whole lot of holy wrapped up in the tiny.
I think that might be why.
Why, despite my aunt’s predictions, I filled the feeders to brimming with sweet nectar and settled into waiting.
For the first few weeks the waiting was full of expectancy and anticipation. I found myself stopping mid-chore just to gaze longingly out our bedroom window hoping to catch a glimpse of fleeting glory.
Those weeks turned into more weeks, chores and life chewed up my expectancy. I forgot about the feeders and how they need to be changed regularly so the nectar doesn’t go rancid.
It seems crazy to admit it now but the disappointment in never seeing my joyful visitors at all this summer was keen.
I almost missed it. I was gathering laundry. Muttering under my breath about rolled up socks left to heap on the floor. Exasperation rising about Kleenexes, guitar picks and screws left in pants pockets. I felt the familiar rush of frustration and with it felt the whoosh of each heartbeat in my ears.
As my mutterings became full blown conversations in my head with my laundry-errant family members I caught a glimpse of movement out the bedroom window.
Time stopped, or so it seemed. I held my breath as I saw hope suspended before that ruby-red feeder. It was in that moment that I realized how much I wanted to catch a glimpse of a hummingbird. My eyes began to fill and through the shimmer of tears I watched as he hovered over the feeder but not drinking a drop.
The nectar was no good and I was unprepared.
With the tears still pricking at my eyes I took a seat on the edge of the bed and thought about the last few weeks. I thought about how it seems as if I have been absent from life. And with tears finally falling I’ve thought about mornings and days that have gone by without so much as a by-your-leave.
Time I would normally spend trying to fill those longing places in me have been exchanged for mundane hours in front of a screen, numbing a hopelessness that ran deeper than never laying eyes on a humming bird.
How is it that we never know how much we need saving? How is it that we never truly know how much the expectancy of God’s purpose in our lives gives us a hope that buoys us, keeps us from feeling there is no hope at all?
I’ve been questioning my faith. Questioning whether or not I fully live the hope of my salvation. Questioning is good, but only in the sense that it’s what keeps us moving toward Christ. Lately however, I’ve felt a fatalistic nature at the root of my questioning. Questioning became more about “what’s the point” then “how is God working through my life right now?”
Just like the days I stopped waiting for the hummingbirds, I have also stopped waiting for the hope of God. I’ve let despair become my companion and with it I have forgotten “to see the eternal in the midst of the temporary” (Henri Nouwen).
I count it a holy moment when those gossamer wings floated through my backyard last week. In the days since that encounter I have seen the moments in which God has called to me. He hasn’t called me from the distance, but from the place he has always been; beside me, with me.
From where I stand the only way out of despair is hope.
I haven’t seen a humming bird in my backyard since that day last week but every other morning I take the feeders inside empty them of the unused nectar and fill them once again. I want to be ready, I want to be prepared—even if I never see another hummingbird for the rest of the summer.
I want to live expectant, holding on to hope because God’s promises are trustworthy and sure (Hebrews 10:23).
And to those of you who find yourself here in this space, hope but a faint flicker, may you know the power of expectancy, may you find Him there beside you.
“So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs… “ Hebrews 12:12