Life has been hard lately. No– wait: that’s my inner optimist talking. Life has been devastatingly overwhelming and under-rewarding and unrelentingly hurtful lately. It’s been like walking in a mine field, and consequently, my focus has been straight ahead, on the task immediately in front of me. Not even my nightly walks with Oz have brought peace, because instead of considering the stars, I’ve been busy considering lesson plans, and resumes, and trials. Not surprisingly, as I’ve found myself so hyper-focused on my immediate survival and struggles, I’ve felt weighted down and depressed. Frankly, I’ve been miserable.
That perspective changed today. This evening, as I stood conversing with a good friend, she suddenly shushed me and pointed out a tiny hummingbird hovering about five feet away. With my head down and my focus inwards, I never would have seen it. My voices, both inner and outer, were immediately quieted by the miraculous efforts of this tiny bird and its racing wings.
I have always found hummingbirds extremely impressive, to say the least. Their hearts beat continually during waking hours at 600 bpm, for crying out loud! And somehow, they sustain this pace day after day, and they do so joyfully, and beautifully. They are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalms 139:14) Their Creator designed them, and He provides for them, despite the extraordinary effort they must put forth daily. It occurred to me then that Father loves me as least as much as He loves His hummingbirds. I too, am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Joseph Smith, while enduring horrors the likes of which I’ve never known in Liberty Jail, was told:
If thou art called to pass through tribulation…if thou art in perils…if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good…
Therefore, hold on thy way… Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
(Doctrine and Covenants 122, emphasis added)
That first hummingbird sighting stopped time, for the briefest of instants, as if the world had frozen completely. All of my stress and heartache and worry lifted… just for a moment, but a moment was all it took to remind me to look up, and to remember the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail so many years ago, and to realize that my heart does not beat on its own: my days are known.
On my short walk back to my apartment, I saw another tiny hummingbird, and paused to examine it, my fingers weaving through my dog’s soft fur, my arms bare in the light breeze, face upturned towards the sun. As I stood there, I felt the joy and peace that comes from looking up and acknowledging with gratitude the beautiful world Father has created for me. I nearly broke out into this song. (I have taught this song to dozens of children in my church, and it is one of my favorites. Click the link. It’s worth it, I promise.)
Just now, on a trip out to my car for a forgotten bag, I again felt prompted: “Look up.” I did, and although the stars I could make out between the city lights were mere distant cousins of the stars back home, they were there. Faint and isolated as they were, they still shone. It’s not the twinkling bedtime story I’d like to read, but for now, perhaps it’s enough–– enough to remind me to keep looking up, to keep looking for proof that my Heavenly Father loves me still.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:1 that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” My witnesses didn’t have to talk– the message got through just the same. I am loved–cherished, even. And even when I forget, when I am so busy in my own tiny life that I become ungrateful and angry, there will be hummingbirds, and soft breezes, and stars. There will always be witnesses to remind me. Like Joseph Smith and the hummingbirds, my days, my struggles, and my needs are known. I just need to remember to look up.