cardinal adj. 1. Of foremost importance; paramount. n.1. A North American finch having a crested head, a short thick bill, and bright red plumage in the male. (The American Heritage Dictionary)
On a blustery winter day after fresh snow had fallen, I filled the feeders with black sunflower seed—the favorite of cardinals. And they came like never before. Dozens of cardinals flew back and forth from pines to feeders as I watched from front and back windows, enthralled. They were so polite, so sharing, taking turns and waiting patiently.
Years ago we named him Crazy Cardinal. It was that time of year again. Males chasing females, guarding territory. This one particular cardinal pecked relentlessly at our kitchen bay window to the point of annoyance. We plastered decals on the glass to deter him. Didn’t work. We covered the window with newspaper. Didn’t work. We called the vet. No advice we hadn’t already tried. It seemed there was just enough reflection causing the cardinal to jab away at his own image, convinced it was another bird.
Yep. We’re crazy. We act like cardinals every day. It’s called projection. We see in others what we don’t want to see in ourselves and then we peck away at the other, trying to get rid of the things that threaten us.
Think about it. What do I most hate in others? If I’m willing and brave enough—if I let the Holy Spirit search me deep enough—I’ll find that what I hate is within, at least in possibility. That’s why Jesus warns us about judgment. It’s so easy to see the speck in someone else’s eye while remaining oblivious to the planks in our own. But when we recognize our planks and let God deal with them, we are able to help others with their specks and to do so in a loving manner, recognizing that we’re on level playing field—never above. (Matthew 7:3-5)
So here’s a challenge for all of us today and every day. Next time we look at someone’s speck with disdain, let’s ask God to show us our plank, deal with it appropriately, and then—if called by God—help humbly with the speck of another. When we allow the Holy Spirit to create a clean heart in us, we won’t waste our time in the double-edged hurtfulness of pecking at reflections.