One morning when I looked closely into the weepy tree near our back porch, I saw two large baby robins. Standing there together, they filled their nest. Both were speckled and still had fuzz sticking out among their new feathers.
Soon the mother bird swooped in with some food, and then one of the babies flew off. One was left.
That last bird just stayed there, cheeping every now and then. After a while it flapped its wings and jumped onto a branch about a foot away, and stayed there for a long time. I know because I kept hearing that noisy chee-ep, chee-ep. When I came back again to check, it was gone. That last bird had finally flown off.
Watching that baby bird getting ready to fly away from the nest made me wonder what it was waiting for. Did it need courage? Or was it waiting for the exact moment when it was ready for that next big step?
Then I remembered a "last bird" experience of my own. I was a little girl, but I was already a good swimmer, just like all the other kids. But they could dive. And I hadn't been able to do that yet.
I remember one day when I was perched, kneeling, on the edge of the raft (kneeling meant I didn't have to dive off so far) with my arms out in a dive position. Everyone was encouraging me, telling me just what to do and how easy it would be. I was actually only inches from the water, but I just couldn't push off. I don't know how long I knelt there, but it seemed like hours. Finally I dived in. And then I dived in over and over again. When I wasn't afraid anymore, it was so easy - and such fun.
We sometimes think that being first is best and that being the last to do something is a bad thing. We think that the "last bird" is slower, or weaker, or afraid.
But maybe that's not true.
Sometimes being last can mean being more careful, or doing a better job, or being wise enough to be completely ready for the next step. Those are all good things. We're each different. Wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? We each do things in our own way, at our own right time. It's not a bad thing to be last.
But if you're last because you're afraid, as I was on that raft, that's not such a good thing. How can we stop being afraid?
God was right there with me on that raft. But I didn't know it, and so I was afraid. God is always with us, no matter where we are. The Bible says that God is holding our hand, never letting us go. That's a word picture to remind us how close we are to God. So we are always safe.
What could be bigger than God? What could be stronger? Nothing! We are always safe because God is always taking care of us. When we know that we're with God, we feel safe. And able to do what we need to do.
A man in the Bible named Moses was asked by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt where they had been made slaves. Moses thought this job was too big for him, and he told God that he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to say the right thing. God told Moses that He would be with his mouth and would tell him what to say. Moses followed God's direction and was able to lead the people out of Egypt.
God is always with us, too, showing us how to do what we need to do. Maybe we need to take a test or dive off a raft. God is with us, talking to us in our thought and showing us what to do.
Later that same afternoon, there was a baby bird at my kitchen door. It was looking right at me. It hopped about, cheeping, and then flew off. I thought it might be that "last bird" coming to show me it was doing OK.
I the Lord thy God
will hold thy right hand,
saying unto thee,
I will help thee.