There is a characteristic that we humans have that goes along with most other living creatures. We have the need for community; we are social creatures by nature. God said in the beginning “it is not good for man to be alone” Gen. 2:8. The social need that we have goes beyond that of only needing a spouse. Too much solitude is not good for us. We need each other. We long for authentic relationships.
On the other hand, God has created each of us as unique people, with a unique personality and a unique potential. He wants us to become ever more fully who He created us to be. It is not a healthy thing to lose our individuality while being part of a crowd. In the modern world in which we live, especially the impersonal lives of big cities the biggest danger of the two tendencies is that we forget about ourselves. and who we are, and even more importantly, who God wants us to be.
From the time we leave our mother’s womb we begin the process of freedom. Do you remember your teenage years, when you thought you didn’t need your parents any longer? I call teenagers “tweeners’ because they aren’t mere children any longer, nor are they yet adults who can care completely for themselves; but they are stretching for more freedom.
What “space” is to humans, “territory” is to birds. I was looking out of my study window this morning at daybreak, as I do every morning; and every morning I see about the same movement, the same actions by the same animals. I maintain between 4-5 acres as a garden. There are many trees and bushes and a pond and a ravine that is home to many different birds and rabbits and squirrels, etc. Looking out this morning I saw the robin protecting their territory as I do everyday. Other birds were coming into the robins territory and they run them off. The part played by territory in the bird’s annual cycle of courtship, mating, incubating their eggs, and parenthood is crucial to their survival.
I want to give you only a few facts about the robin. There are 2 birds called a Robin. Europeans have a Robin and North America has another bird that we call a Robin. Actually our North American Robin is not a Robin at all, but is a thrush. Both are songbirds and live in gardens and woodlands, and get along well with humans; both enjoy a diet of earth worms and insects and have the same pattern of flying south in the winter; and they both have a very prominent red breast.
The European Robin is even more popular than its North American namesake. It is actually the national bird of Britain. It is smaller than a Sparrow and is a much tamer bird than its North American counterpart. I remember reading in a Charles Spurgeon biography that a large number of Robins gathered at the Norwood Cemetery in South London for his funeral. This is a quote from the biographer ” a little Robin poured forth its liquid note…. from a neighboring tombstone. The redbreast made appropriate music, fabled as it was to have had its crimson coat ever since it picked a thorn from the Saviour’s bleeding brow”. (Lewis A. Drummond in Spurgeon Prince of Preachers, Kregel, 1992, p.755). Since that time the European Robin has been called by many a “pious” bird.
In all truth, the Robin is a very territorial bird. The very pretty song of the Robin is not to attract a mate, or for his own pleasure, but is a song to advertise to all that the territory is his. After his territory is marked in the early Spring the song then becomes his song to hens in search of a mate.
So, why is the Robin so territorial? There are four reasons I could find for this. First, it helps in the getting and retaining of a mate. Secondly, it guarantees a ready food supply for its young. Thirdly, it keeps the population spaced out for them to all have a suitable environment. Finally, it prevents other pairs from interrupting the raising of several broods.
As Christians, we should be very cautious that we keep our combinations of both community and our own “space” or “territory”. We need to avoid both extremes. Neither is good for us one without the other.
To give up our individual time with no privacy, no time for reflection, and no time to grow into the unique person that God has made each of us to be is to lose a very significant part of who we are.
On the other hand, a solitary life is a not healthy for anybody. To live the life of a hermit is to deny ourselves as a social being and our calling into fellowship with others. The mystics denied themselves thinking that they would be absorbed into the Divine. As Christians we know that God’s purpose for us is not to lose, but to keep our individuality. The Christian life begins when Christ stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He will not invade our space until we open the door of our hearts to admit Him to come in.
Until tomorrow, Lord willing,