We’ve got cardinals all over our backyard (the little red birds, not Catholic senior ecclesiastical leaders). While watching one of these little birds fly back and forth to the same spot in our yard, we discovered a nest wedged in between the branches of one of our hedges. Grabbing a step ladder (a short man’s favorite tool), I clambered up the steps to peer inside. Within the layers of pine straw were three quivering, little baby birds with (comparatively) large mouths hanging open. They might as well have had FRAGILE stamped across their tiny bird heads.
I lifted up each of my excited children to show them the baby birds. This soon degenerated into a screaming match of “My turn! My turn!” until we imposed a break for the mother cardinal – who was hovering around nearby, looking a little distressed.
The distractions of life sank in and we did not return to check on the baby birds until a few days later… only to find that they were gone.
As I looked up from my perch on the step ladder, my wife instantly recognized the look on my face: “I don’t want to know.” She said, turning her head. Immediately changing her mind, she looked back up at me and asked “Are they gone?”
I shook my head yes. Despite us both immediately jumping to the conclusion that they were devoured by a cat, I decided to look up when cardinals leave their nest upon a sliver of hope. The answer astonished me – just 10 days! I couldn’t believe those frail little birds could turn into something even remotely close to leaving the nest in that timeframe. In my research I also stumbled across another neat fact: cardinals mate for life.
“Pairs mate for life, and stay together year-round. Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak. If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of incubation.”
Guys – when’s the last time you sang with your wife and fed her mouth to mouth? Clearly I’m slacking.
The little cardinal fellas help out their ladies in a couple of other areas too:
“Males sometimes bring nest material to the female, who does most of the building” and while “female generally incubates the eggs, though, rarely, the male will incubate for brief periods of time.”
Reading about the cardinals working to help each other out in this way brought Scripture to my mind – specifically God’s declaration over Adam in the Garden of Eden.
In Genesis 2:18, God looks at his creation and declares (in the KJV), “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
Eh? Come again? A help meet? Must be that weird old English language.
In Hebrew the words are: ‘ê·zer kə·neḡ·dōw [עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ [2
Ezer – meaning “help.”
Kenegdow – stemming from root neged (נֶ֫גֶד), meaning “in front of, in sight of, opposite to.”
When I look at this combination of “opposite” and “help,” it helps me understand the NLT position: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’”(emphasis added).
My wife is a divinely given compliment to my incompleteness. Wow. I’d like to say that I always hold that reverence for marriage but some days it just seems like my wife and I are speaking two completely different languages.
For instance, she told me the other day, "Go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen." I couldn’t understand why she was so mad when I came home with 12 loaves of bread.
Okay, so that was just a joke I found on the internet, but it definitely has a ring of truth about it. The question is, why? Why did God design us to be "half-finished" with such inherent differences?
I think Gary Thomas hits the nail on the head when he posed the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Not that marriage isn't a terrific source of happiness - it is! But there is something much more significant that comprises the driving force.
I have found that by seeking to bridge communication boundaries and striving to meet one another’s needs, we have grown in ways we simply could not have done without the incredible gift of marriage. There is also no denying that my wife has been uniquely positioned in my life to bring out the most in me, Her strengths fill in the gaps created by weaknesses, and I like to think my strengths do likewise for her.
Corny joke alert: Thank you, cardinals, for “tweeting” that reminder of the treasures stored within a biblical marriage!
- Nicolas C. Day
Note: Out of curiosity, I thought I’d look up the worst example of a biblical marriage in the animal kingdom. It would be hard to top the praying mantis, considering the female bites off the male’s head during reproduction.
 Northern cardinal. (2017, July 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:36, August 14, 2017
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