After a protracted season of overcast skies, rain and cooler-than-normal temperatures the sun finally came out to play here in Alberta. Don’t get me wrong…there have been far too many large fires in the West lately; we were due for a good soak. The farmer’s daughter in me appreciates the importance of a million-dollar downpour, and I’m grateful for every drop. Albertans are very, very acclimatized to their sunny skies however, so gloomy days strung out days on end do not bring out our best colors. No hint of sunlit blue? Much like the raucous crows and gregarious magpies, we squawk our displeasure.
These lively, (some would say obnoxious) birds have been on my mind lately. Up in the eaves and dormer windows on the roof of our building, a family of crows has taken up residence for the last couple of years. They make themselves known by the unmistakable noise, not to mention their aggressive engagement of any other predators that threaten their territory. Smaller, more gracious birds stay wisely away. Lately, the impudent patriarch of this clan has realized I open my blinds early in the morning, so he perches on the fence ten feet away, and stares as intently at me as my own gaze outward. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to warn me off.
Crows have an established reputation as both highly intelligent creatures, extremely adaptable to their circumstances. Apparently, they have amazing problem-solving ability and their communication skills are so marked they have warranted extensive scientific study. Their brain/body percentage is actually greater than humans! Highly social, communally aware and deeply familial, a community of crows can unitedly dominate an area. Get a group of them aggressively entrenched in your neighborhood and they will make their presence felt.
Unfortunately, a ‘murder’ of crows is not limited to the world of birds. Even in human societies, a crow-like spirit can become well embedded and almost impossible to extirpate. Remember the two old codgers up in the opera balcony in The Muppets movies? Full of curiosity, acerbic observation and toxic humor, many like them also keep up a running commentary on the world in a critical, corrosive spirit that masquerades under the auspices of age and experience. Try dealing with an enclave where the conspiracy of clans or allegiances of like-interest dominate all decisions, directions and control. Oh, the joy of being part of a committee where some forceful faction has already made up its mind about how things should be done. Dare to breathe a word of non-conformity, question the status quo or mock the mood and you will find yourself abruptly persona non grata. Failure to pay tribute to the prevailing patriarch or adhere to the unwritten rules, and you are dead in the water; black-balled before you even realize what is what. Even in the Church, the clever crow may manifest in what is called ‘the spirit of the Old Prophet’: a jealous, crone-like influence that attempts to stifle new anointings by insidiously demoralizing, demeaning and quenching God’s Spirit with critique as it kindles a new generation. Where tradition reigns supreme, the crows will gather, united in an active resistance to any new kid on the block.
Worst still, the big black Corvus brachyrhynchos metaphorically line up on the fences of one’s mind and caw unrelentingly. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the bitter inner dialog of analysis, intimidation, reviling, and unremitting self-condemnation that enjoys picking us apart. It’s the vicious voice of our internal, fastidious censor, opposing and denigrating our most cherished hoped and dreams, undermining our childlike faith and souring the sweetest trust. This wily, aggressive creature never fails to belligerently challenge every new ground we attempt to take. “Who do you think you are? You’ll never succeed at that! You don’t have what it takes to finish that! Remember what happened last time? Stop making a fool of yourself! And on, and on it goes.
David encountered this constant attack as he was anointed king and had to flee from the poisonous jealousy of Saul. Internally and externally, the hostility just never abated.
Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
How long will you attack a man? You shall be slain, all of you, Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence. They only consult to cast him down from his high position; They delight in lies; They bless with their mouth, But they curse inwardly. Selah
My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God.
God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:1-8 NKJV
Crows are carrion eaters, so it’s not surprising they long been associated with death, disease and evil omens. Any creature that feasts on dead flesh is not going to welcome change, but instead dreads being chased away by the force of new life bursting forth. Life in the Spirit is going to challenge them on the deepest level.
Not to be trite, but even crows have their place in the great chain of life. Maybe their role is to strengthen us through opposition, much like breaking through the hard outer shell of an egg invigorates the limbs of the hatchling as it forces its way into the world. Spiritual crows are inevitable, but the eagles will still overcome them. The real secret is staying in the game long enough with faith to stymie the critics, cynics, sceptics and mockers. Just stay your course in the Lord with conviction and endurance. In the words of the country song "Let's give them something to talk about!"
For wherever the carcass is, the vultures will gather. Matthew 24:28
cb Photo by Bing