The staccato tapping was too rhythmic and persistent to be random. It had no source I could find inside the converted house serving as the Office of General Counsel.
“What is that irritating noise?!?” I asked Sandy and Pam in the front office.
“It’s a bird,” was their surprising answer.
I took a look outside and, sure enough, it was a bird. He continued to fling himself at the window and hammer at it every day for a month.
The flash of gray-brown feathers with accents of black and white clued me that it was a mockingbird. Some online research told me it was a breeding male who saw his reflection in our windows and believed it to be a rival. The tapping was the sound of his attack to kill or drive this rival away.
My colleague Chris Johnston’s windows took the brunt of the attacks. He named the obsessed bird, “Harry.”
Harry kept up his percussive assaults with a violent fervor. It sounded at times like he was going to break the glass or hurt himself. Many mockingbirds do injure themselves this way, some fatally.
Then a window washer arrived on his regular rounds. He spent a day cleaning all our windows. When he finished, light streamed through the glass and Harry stopped his frenzied assaults.
Harry’s reflection resulted from the opaque effect of the accumulated dirt and grime on the windows. He could now see into the house.When the windows were washed, Harry, the jealous mockingbird, had a new clear perspective. His intense rivalry disappeared when he could see beyond himself.
Harry is a happy bird now. He sits in our avocado tree and sings to his mate as she minds their nest.
God always finds a way to tell his stories and make his points. Nature is his second book. It would be a mistake to laugh off Harry’s obsessive misadventure with his own reflection as a humorous vignette from the animal kingdom.
The Apostle Paul says we miss out on the full blessing of love because for now “we see in a mirror, dimly” but in the fullness of time when God and his kingdom are complete in our life “we shall see face to face” (1 Cor 13:8-10). We will stop looking at our reflections and make eye contact with the God who made us and loves us most.
It’s hard to pull our eyes away from the mess we’ve made with our reflections and the resulting battles of self. Our reflections are smeared and distorted with the grime left by our anger, our jealousies and rivalries, our selfishness, our lusts, or the soul-leaking wounds we’ve suffered at the hands of others.
Why won’t things become clear for us? We throw ourselves at our dirty windows trying to defeat what we see there or to break free from it. We don’t want the person we see to be there – the person who mocks our imperfections and inadequacy; the person who demands to share our life; the person who resists change.
We were made in the image of God, but that image is marred by our sins, and we can’t see past ourselves.
In the office conference room a few feet away from where Harry hurled himself at his reflection, I sometimes meet with men and women to hear their sad complaints and angry grievances. In some cases, they have sinned mightily, but they refuse to ask for forgiveness. They see no need to clean up the stains of their selfish actions. They see their reflections and they decide they must be in the right because they don’t see anyone else but themselves.
They batter against the windows of their work and personal relationships trying to destroy those they envy and to force acceptance of who they are without changing.
Obsessive projection rules them. It’s always the other persons fault to them. They are unable to receive their reflection as a statement of their own need for a window washing and a clean, clear perspective that there is more to life than their own seething angst.
Twenty years ago, I retreated into the wilderness in the White Mountains of Arizona to share a time of silence and prayer with God to deal with my anger, the pain that caused it and the pain that I caused others. I sat on the edge of a cliff at dawn and read these words in Psalm 119:41-42: “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise. Then I shall have an answer for the one who taunts me for I trust in your word.”
The one who taunted me was me– “You are not loveable.” “No one really loves you.” “Don’t let anyone come close because they will hurt you.” “You have hurt too many people to ever be accepted and considered safe.”
But the Lord whispered to me at daybreak, “I love you and won’t quit. If you can accept this in your heart as well as your head, you can be whole.” He gently touched the scabrous lesions of my leprous soul with mercy.
My emotional inflammation began to recede and I left that cliff-side on a path to healing because I accepted Jesus’ love as the reality of my life. His love became the reality of my human relationships.
He washed the windows of my soul and my tarnished reflection faded as his smiling face came into view. I stopped hurting myself and others. Twenty years later, I still ask him to wash the windows on a regular basis.
Maybe you can identify with Harry, those anguished men and women in my conference room, or me. Maybe you can’t, but why not?
Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24). What can Jesus’ grace do for the windows of your soul? Might he improve your view?
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.