By Jeremy Suisted
When my dream to make my own sourdough bread collapsed in a gooey, undercooked mess of disgust, I discovered something that gave me even more joy: feeding birds.
As the masses congregate to feed on my bread, I feel genuine joy.
I love thinking that I'm giving them a treat, breaking up the monotony of their day and providing them with sustenance to keep on flying.
My joy when I feed birds sparked another thought: If God created this world and provides for us, why do I feel like God doesn't particularly enjoy providing for me?
Often the love of God is portrayed as a cold, impersonal, mathematical love, like a politician's claim to love their electorate.
For those who grow up in the church, we risk becoming so familiar with God's love that it appears automated, like the sliding doors at a supermarket.
When the doors open, they aren't doing so out of care and service – they are doing it because they don't have a choice to not do it.
Sometimes, God's love can be communicated like this – and love that is automated is not love at all.
But, the Scriptures say God is just as loving of birds as I am.
Asaph, the Israelite poet, wrote of God in Psalm 50, saying He "knows every bird in the mountains".
Jesus, walking through the bustling centre of Jerusalem, taught a crowd of thousands that even though five sparrows could be bought for two pennies, not one of them would be forgotten by God. This God seems to delight in feeding birds, caring for them – and knowing what each one is doing.
These verses aren't here just to remind us that God is good at minding the animals.
Jesus goes on to say, "Don't be afraid, you are worth much more than sparrows".
Just as God loves to feed the birds, He even more loves to provide for us.
Giving isn't a chore for God. Giving isn't automated for God. But giving is what this God loves to do.
In any of those Love Language quizzes, I always come out as a gift giver. I love the surprise of an unexpected gift, the thought of someone preparing something with me in mind, and the mystery of not knowing what present has been planned.
But – even more so – I love the thought that this God loves when we look to Him for provision, and loves to gift us what we need. This understanding opens our eyes to see that – in the words of Brennan Manning – all is a gift. All is grace.
One last thing must be said: when that first sparrow excitedly discovers the bounty of doughy bread, their first response is to chirp.
I can't speak their language, but judging by the quick flurry of friends who join the party, I assume they are calling for their fellow birds to join in. So perhaps the sparrow gets the gifts of God a bit better than I do.
These gifts aren't just for my own self-betterment, my own pleasure, my own joy – that's far too small a view!
The gifts of God are for the community, for sharing, for all – we are gifted, to be a gift; we are blessed to be a blessing.•