Robin Rage

by Joanie Butman

Every year, around this time, we have a robin that returns to wage war against our kitchen window.  I’m assuming it’s the same one, but they all look alike to me. You’d think ours would have a distinguishable flat beak from his constant pecking battles over the years. I thought we had an incredibly stupid bird on our hands, but after some research, I discovered that this behavior is a common phenomenon. It’s simply the robin attempting to establish and defend his territory during the nesting season.

The male sees his reflection in the window and thinks it’s a rival trying to usurp his territory. He flies at the window to try and make the rival leave. But instead of flying away, the reflected robin seems to get equally agitated, flies in exactly the same way, and the robin hits the glass. No matter how aggressive the real robin gets, the reflection matches it. The real robin becomes more and more determined to drive that upstart away!*

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Hence, the non-stop pecking. The bigger issue is that while the robin is busy fighting an imaginary rival, he is NOT doing what he needs to be doing – fighting off REAL adversaries, mating, building a nest, finding food, etc. The only way to stop him is to distract him from his own reflection.

The longer I heard this poor thing smashing into the window for days on end, over and over and over, the more I realized that humans are guilty of the same idiocy at times – at least this human. Think about it. How many times does God close a door (for our own benefit), but we stubbornly keep walking into it, refusing to adjust direction regardless of the pain? And how often is the enemy you find yourself fighting the person you see in the mirror every morning? Perhaps it was an avid bird watcher who coined the expression ‘being your own worst enemy.’

The truth of the matter is robins aren’t stupid, and neither are humans. However, don’t we suffer from a similar inclination; namely, to be blinded by our own reflection, defending our 'territory' at all costs? We battle with how we perceive reality and how we think it should look like. We then face the same predicament of busying ourselves, bumping up against an immoveable object, while we miss out on the work God needs us to do – wasted energy producing no, or even worse, negative results.

The robin’s incessant pecking grates on my nerves to the point I’m tempted to go after him with a tennis racquet. Fortunately, God is much more tolerant with us when we insist on doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. He patiently waits and watches until the pain of continuing the same pattern becomes greater than the pain of changing. Only then will we see surrender as an option. There are times, of course, when God goes for the racquet and chases us out of our own Ground Hog Day** movie, but more often He gracefully allows us to surrender in our own time.

The ultimate solution is the same for birds and humans – redirection. I could save the poor bird from himself simply by covering the window so he can’t see his reflection and hope he doesn’t just move to another window. In much the same way, when we become less about self and more about God and others, our perceptions begin to shift dramatically. He's the only One who can save us from ourselves.

When you alter where you’re looking, God’s will becomes clearer and paths open up that we couldn’t see before. Our efforts no longer feel futile, and the work at hand is accomplished without the constant struggle. The quality of our life is dictated by where we choose to direct our focus and our energy. Where, or on whom, do you choose to focus? On your problems or on the One who can help with them? Are you so preoccupied looking at your self-perceived faults that you’re blinded to your innate gifts and talents? Is the image looking back at you every morning your own worst enemy? Is the worthiness of your reflection based on the world’s idea of beauty and value or God’s?

Choosing to see your reflection through God’s eyes will change how you view the world and everyone in it. Choose wisely.

And so does everyone else!




**Gound Hog Day is a 1993 movie in which Bill Murray finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.