Follow the ancient paths

I was driving along a country road the other day when I saw a buzzard perched in a tree top. It was the classic image of the bird on a dead branch high in a treetop surveying its surroundings. I decided to turn the car around and drive towards it again to take a photograph, if there was somewhere suitable where I could pull the car in. Two minutes later I was approaching the tree again and the bird was still there; what’s more there was a little place at the side of the road where I could park the car close enough for a decent shot. So far so good. And then came the stupid moment: instead of just pointing my camera through the windscreen, I decided to open the door and step outside. It won’t notice me, I thought.

Wrong! As soon as the door moved, the bird opened its beautiful huge wings and flapped slowly away. And away with it glided my classic close-up (with my zoom lens) photo of the buzzard on the high dead branch.

But I felt God spoke to me as I dove away in disappointment and anger at my stupidity, and spent much of the morning reflecting on the lesson I felt that the Lord was teaching me. It was this: when I looked at the buzzard I only saw the photograph I want to take and the actions that I could carry out in order to take that photo. I did not look at the buzzard and see what it was and what it was doing. The buzzard wasn’t a photo for my collection , it was a wild bird with far keener eyes than my own, perched on a vantage point where it had sight of all that moved within its range of vision. That included me and my car door. I gave no thought to the impact that I would have on the buzzard; only the impact the buzzard would have on my collection of photos.

We cannot love others unless we consider the impact that we have on them, and we can only do this when we understand who they are, what they are doing and why they are doing it; what is going on in the world that they were in before we turned up. We achieve this is by approaching gently, with consideration and understanding. If I am approaching a bush where a warbler is singing I will approach as gently as I can because I don’t want to scare it away: why do I barge into the “bushes” where other people are and expect them to welcome my disturbance of their world? “Let your gentleness be known to all,” wrote Paul (Philippians 4:5). Jesus told us to learn gentleness from Him when we take His yoke (Matt 11:29). Gentleness is an essential characteristic of love and part of the fruit of the Spirit. If I had included gentleness in my approach to that buzzard I would have taken a picture through the car windscreen instead of scaring it off by opening the door. Instead, without love, I ended up with nothing (1 . Cor 13…)

Jeremiah 6:16 says: “This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus Himself is the ancient path: He is the Way, the “good way.” And when He speaks to us about taking His yoke and following Him, He quotes the very words that the Holy Spirit speaks through Jeremiah: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 29-30)

Every moment in any relationship is a crossroads. We have a choice. We either charge across in the direction that we have in our minds, open the car door and scare away the bird; or we can stand, which means we have first have to stop. And having stopped, we look, which means we consider the other person, who they are and the circumstances they are in. And having looked, we seek Jesus, the good way, and look for those ancient paths of His that He wants us to walk in. If we don’t have an immediate revelation, we can’t go far wrong with following the guidance of 2 Tim 2:22, which is to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.”  If we do that, not only will we proceed with gentleness and find rest for our own souls, but we will bring Jesus into the other person’s situation and we might help their soul to find rest as well.

Don’t rush to open the car door… (this one was much further away, and is much enlarged.)

(Note for readers in the USA: the bird in this story is a european common buzzard; not a turkey vulture, which is often called a buzzard in the USA).

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