Well, not “kill” exactly. Maybe just “intimidate” a little. Like make the little feathered guy an offer he can’t refuse.
It’s like this. I really hate waking up to an alarm clock. When my sleep cycle is interrupted that way, I end up starting the day disoriented. It’s far better to go to sleep early enough to be able to wake naturally before the alarm goes off. But of course, that’s not always possible, and there are other interruptions.
Like mockingbirds. If you’ve never heard one, the mockingbird’s song can actually be quite beautiful. They’re the karaoke masters of the avian world, running through a medley of snippets from the songs of other birds. Their repertoire grows over time, and can even include sounds other than birdsong. It’s the male who sings to attract females (“Hey, chickadee, listen to this!”), and he usually sings most heartily at dawn.
Mockingbird song is not only beautiful, but loud. I know this because we have one that likes to give concerts from the tree outside our bedroom window.
For a while, he would consistently begin his performance at first light. During the summer in particular, when we would leave our windows open on warm nights, I would literally wake up to the sound of a chirping bird (I half expected Bambi to show up). He would reliably start warming up about 6 to 6:30 AM. I began getting used to the idea that when our friend began singing, it was about time to get up.
But the bird, of course, had other ideas. Despite my expectations, unfortunately, there’s nothing that says that he should only sing when I need or want him to. A few nights ago, I was emerging out of a sleep cycle, and was greeted with enthusiastic twittering. “Time to get up already?” I thought groggily, looking over at the clock.
It was 1:47 in the morning. (Apparently, he was still calling around for a date.)
When this would happen, I would find myself lying there getting mad at the bird. I’m just not as rational as I could be when a good night’s sleep is on the line. I would try to tell myself that this was one of God’s creatures, who was only doing what he was made to do. The good news is that it often worked, and I would be less resentful of the bird. The bad news is that after arguing with myself I would really be awake. And not pleased about it. Which would make me mad at the bird again. And don’t you just hate it when you’re ticked off at somebody, they’re clueless about it, and they don’t even have the decency to stop being happy and chirpy?
Yes, it is all about me. I am the axis on which the universe turns. At least at 1:47 in the morning.
If I had to guess, I’d say that God probably delights in the song of the mockingbird (e.g., Matt 6:26). And if that’s so, then who’s out of step with whom?
Of course, there’s nothing particularly abnormal about being grumpy when you’re sleep-deprived. But it’s funny how easy it is to indulge in the small self-centered conceit that God had actually sent me a feathered wake-up call to greet me in the morning–my own personal alarm clock. That isn’t to say that he couldn’t or wouldn’t, if it suited his purposes. The real question is how I react when things don’t suit mine.
Birds sing for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with me. And the same could be said about so many other things that happen each day, things that I am tempted to take personally, as if the universe had purposely conspired to cough up something for me to trip over. Fume as I might, my winged friend will go on singing to his heart’s content, oblivious.
Suffice it to say that God takes more joy in his singing than in my self-centered fuming.
So here’s the plan. The next time the bird wakes me at a decent hour, I’ll get up and start the day with a “Thank you” on my lips. If he wakes me in the middle of the night, I’ll get up and close the window, lie back down, and thank God that I have a bed to sleep in and a window to close. I will thank him that in fact, the world does not revolve around me, which means I don’t have to manage things over which I have no control. I will thank God that he knows and cares for every one of his creatures, including the mockingbird. Including me.
And then, I’ll go back to sleep.