Like most “God moments,” this one snuck up on me when I least expected it.
It was the middle of Lent, and, truth be told, I felt miserable. Frustration and disappointment had been building up in my heart for a while. My career in museum science was put on indefinite hold thanks to the COVID pandemic, so I had decided to pursue my lifelong ambition to be a writer. But after two years of hard work and struggle, my nascent career as a wordsmith appeared to have plateaued. I was barely making ends meet. Anxieties over finances and limited job prospects were weighing down on me like a millstone. I felt defeated; a worthless failure.
One morning, this restlessness and melancholy seemed more than I could bear, and I rushed from the house, hoping to clear my head by walking about the neighborhood. The day was chilly and tattered clouds sailed above on a brisk wind. The first timid signs of spring were all about—crocuses were blooming, and the tips of the cherry trees were pink with new buds, but I hardly noticed any of this. While I brooded over my perceived shortcomings, the world appeared forlorn and gray. My soul was still caught in the grip of winter.
I began to walk faster, my sneakers pounding the sidewalk, and with each step I poured my heart out to God in silent prayer. I don’t remember my exact thoughts, except that they were filled with bitterness and a profound sense of abandonment. Perhaps they were not so different from the sentiments expressed by the Psalmist: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Psalm 13:1-2). Tears formed in my eyes.
Then, while hurrying past an open lot not far from my home, I saw a flock of robins hunting for worms in the grass. The birds chirped joyfully as they hopped among the young wildflowers, heedless of the blustery weather. I stopped dead in my tracks to look at them.
With a suddenness and clarity that astonished me, the words of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount became present to my mind: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26).
I broke down then and there and wept. It was a moment of profound grace, overwhelming and yet gentle. In that instant, God’s love surged over the ramparts of my pain and discouragement to communicate with my soul in an intimate way that I have seldom experienced before. I stood there, staggered, and felt with intense certainty that no trials, setbacks, or failures, past or present, could change the fact that I was a child of God. I was loved, I was valued.
I had read the words of that Gospel passage many times, and heard them preached from the pulpit, yet I had never truly understood their meaning before that moment. Instead, I had foolishly tied my sense of self-worth to the success of my career, or my perceived lack thereof, leaving me open to depression and to the lies of despair. Later in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus again uses the imagery of birds to instruct his disciples about God’s providential care: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29-31). I had let fear and anxiety rule my life, forgetting that my steps are guided by the hand of a loving Father.
Some might call my experience with the robins serendipity or wishful thinking. Yet I am convinced that it was a genuine “God moment,” a moment when grace breaks through into the seemingly ordinary, mundane experiences of life. I walked the rest of the way home rejoicing. I was loved, and I rejoiced in being so loved. By that God moment, I can now proclaim honestly with the Psalmist: “But I have trusted in your merciful love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6).