During our recent vacation at the beach, I noticed the differences in the way various species of birds went about the task of finding food.
There was one that stood with its feet planted at the edge of the water, watching and waiting for its food to come within reach.
Another kind of bird kept busily running back and forth with the ebb and flow of the waves, as if it didn't want to get its feet wet as it searched for something to eat.
There was another species that had an interesting method. It flew low and parallel to the shore along the area where the water was only inches deep. It opened its mouth, allowing its bottom beak to skim the surface of the water as it flew along, hoping to come away with some small morsels of nourishment.
Then there were the birds that hunted their prey a little farther away from the shore. One would fly overhead until it spotted its objective, and then actually dive into the water in an attempt to retrieve its dinner.
Finally there were the ones that stayed out in the deeper water, floating along and sometimes plunging into the water to obtain something to satisfy their hunger.
My observations of those beach fowl reminded me of the various ways some of us go about in search of nourishment for our souls.
There are those who make little effort to find such spiritual food. They simply stand at the edge -- not going to church or reading the Bible -- possibly grabbing hold of an occasional nugget of inspiration that happens to pass their way.
Others vacillate back and forth with the ebb and flow of life. They will occasionally open up a Bible, attend a worship service, or tune in to a religious broadcast. But they don't ever stay long enough to get their feet wet in the ocean of God's revelation. They taste and run -- move forward, then retreat -- no consistency in their efforts or results.
Then you have those who just like to skim the surface of the things of God. They want to receive just enough to get by on. They may be afraid of going deeper, not wanting to risk being thought of as some kind of religious fanatic. All of these folks we've mentioned so far like to stay close to shore -- wanting to get some spiritual food while still maintaining close ties with the world apart from God.
However, others are willing to dive into the deeper water of regularly reading God's Word and getting involved in worship and group Bible studies. But even then, some are hit-and-run feeders who take that plunge for a while, but suddenly fly off and disappear for months or years at a time.
I guess I like the idea of being like those birds that stay out in the deep water for long periods of time. Those are the folks who enjoy spending time seeking God and hearing from Him. They're not afraid to get away from the shore of worldliness and are not ashamed to be known as a seeker of God's will. They're willing to commit to Bible reading, regular worship, the accountability of a church family, and personal involvement in ministry.
They can appreciate those basic truths on the surface and feed on them as if it was their first time. But they can also dive deep and explore the more challenging truths of God. They are in it for the long haul and through all kinds of weather. They are not easily deterred from receiving their spiritual food.
Let's take a look at our own practices when it comes to seeking nourishment for our souls. What kind of bird are you?
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.