“I can’t believe she brought that little boy with her,” the gray haired lady in front of us was speaking very loudly to her white haired companion–loud enough to be heard by both Jason and myself. I had recently joined the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and at 30 was the youngest member of the club. Now, on this outing I had brought along an even younger friend, 10 year-old Jason.
“I know,” her companion responded, “we won’t be able to see a thing because he will scare everything away. If I had known that little boy was coming I would not have come on this field trip.”
I looked down at Jason, my bird book clutched tightly in one hand while the other held onto a pair of borrowed binoculars that were slung around his neck. This was his first organized birding trip with the Knoxville Chapter, and I was hoping that the comments from the ladies in front of us would not discourage him into deciding it would be his last. I knew he had an interest in birds. He had found a screech owl in the woods behind his house and been over to my house to count how many woodpeckers he could find in my back yard.
I began talking trying to distract him. “Did you find all the birds we hope to see today in that bird book?” I asked.
“Sure did, and I can hardly wait to see them!” was Jason’s excited reply. Good they haven’t spoiled the day for him yet, I thought. It should be a good day for shorebirds and other migrating waterfowl, not really the easiest for beginners, but Jason is well prepared.
Just then the path we were following opened up to the wide expanse of water that composed one of the ash settling and water treatment ponds next to the Kingston Steam Plant. (Officially known as the Kingston Fossil Plant, a large Tennessee Valley Authority coal-burning power plant about 40 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee.)
“Hey, little boy!” chirped one of the men in that voice used by many on the very young. “Do you want to come see the birdie?” He had just set up his high-powered spotting scope at the edge of the pond.
“Sure,” Jason replied, standing on tiptoe to see into the scope. “Oh,” he gasped in a low voice filled with awe, “it’s a loon with its winter coat on!”
Instantly Jason’s fortunes changed. From that moment on he had a name and was no longer “little boy.” All the rest of the day those older members of the Knoxville Ornithological Society fought over Jason, sharing with him their birding information garnered over many years. “Jason, have you seen . . . ?”
“Jason, did you know . . .?”
“Jason, come see what we have here.”
“I wanted to show Jason that.”
That day Jason had to prove his knowledge and interest in order to be accepted by those older members of the Knoxville Ornithological Society, and gain access to their vast resources of knowledge developed from years of birding. He had to earn the right to be called by his given name. Yet, in our spiritual walk, Jesus doesn’t wait until we have earned our worth or know the right answers to gain access to Him and His wealth of knowledge and mercy. Jesus calls us just as we are saying, “Come to me. . .” Matthew 11:28. In Exodus 33:17 God said to Moses, “I know you by name . . .” and He knows each of our names as well for He writes them in the book of remembrance, Malachi 3:16. Let each of us daily respond to this call for it is our listening and seeking Jesus that allows Him to show us great and mighty things that we don’t know. Jeremiah 33:3