There’s nothing more relaxing than a day at the beach with your family, unless, of course, your daughters start feeding the birds. All it takes is tossing one piece of bread on the sand to turn your seaside picnic into a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
For my money seagulls are the telemarketers of the animal kingdom: persistent, annoying and constantly interrupting your meals. To my daughters, however, they’re magical, as enchanting as the birds who helped the mice sew Cinderella’s dress for the ball. They adore them.
So on this past spring break, before I even knew what happened, half our picnic had gone to the birds. My girls weren’t satisfied with just throwing food at a distance, they wanted to get as close to them as possible.
They spoke gently to the gulls, and using their bread as bait, lured them to within petting distance. Then they tossed the bread in the air and watched the gulls pluck it out of the sky just a few inches from their hands. The birds were loving it.
The whole thing looked like so much fun a little boy walked up and joined in on the act. He was probably four or five, and he copied my daughters’ technique to get to the birds to fly in as close as possible.
Except instead of bread, he had a stick.
He held up his stick like my girls were holding up their food and spoke in the same soothing tone to the gulls, “Here, birdie, birdie.” Then, whack! The birds would scatter. He’d pick up another stick and try it again. Expecting food, the birds were too dumb to protect themselves, so they kept coming back for their stick dinner again and again.
You ever have a day like those birds? You think someone’s your friend. You think a situation is a safe. Then before you know it, whack! The person you thought would help you starts throwing sticks.
Or maybe it’s not a specific person but just a situation you find yourself in. The sticks are flying and you have the bruises to prove it. You feel beaten up, discouraged and confused. And your heart’s just as hungry as ever.
Worst of all, like the gulls, sometimes we find ourselves returning to things that hurt us when we should know better.
The scene on the beach made me think of something Jesus once said about being a good shepherd. He said he wanted a good shepherd to people like us, that he came to protect and provide for us like a shepherd does for his sheep. “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).
But he also said there was a thief who came only to steal, kill and destroy, an enemy to our souls.
My daughters were like the good shepherd to their feathered friends, calling them, loving them and feeding them. The boy, even though he looked like a friend and sounded like a friend, had very different intentions.
Whatever you’re facing this week, whatever hits you’ve taken, remember there is a God who wants to protect you and nourish you because he loves you so much. Beware the stick-throwers in shepherd’s clothing and run to the one who promises you life to the full.