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  • Writer's pictureKristen Cole

Sparrow Love of God

My grandmother was one of the dearest treasures in my life. Often, I think of her. Often, I miss her. Often, I recall our times together, both before and after she developed Alzheimers and dementia. I have written about her before, in this post. I also often think about her favorite song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. I have sung it in church, I have listened to it with love. I have considered the words…

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely and long for Heav’n and home? When Jesus is my portion? A constant Friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain: I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. He watches me.

Verse 2: “Let not your heart be troubled,” his tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Verse 3: Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me.

How my human heart relates to these words. How I hear my grandmother’s sweet voice in my head, singing along with tenderness, voice with some tremble, heart with much hope. How my grandmother still encourages me…”draw closer to Him…” In that drawing closer, I decided to dig a little deeper into the history of this song, finding the story behind it to be a beautiful picture of God’s goodness amidst life’s trials and times of feeling forgotten. It was no accident that the good Lord led me here today.

This song’s lyrics were written by Civilla Martin in 1905. Wikipedia explained the background to this beautiful song’s poetic encouragement in a quote, said to have come from Civilla, herself.

“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.“

Experiences in our lives often lead us to action. Civilla Martin took to heart the words of a woman who had very apparent and obvious struggles that no person could deny. Had Mrs. Doolittle expressed that she was fatigued, weary, overwhelmed…this would also absolutely have been accepted and understood. Instead, she shared her “boundless faith” that can only be experienced when truly abiding in God. That is the kind of faith I want.

This led me to revisit my #oneword2017, abide (for explanation from my original post, click here). Taking a different slant on the word today, I reflected on it’s meaning, “to bear patiently,” (tolerate) or “to endure without yielding” (withstand) as defined by Mirriam-Webster. And I thought about the kind of abiding that it must have taken Mrs. Doolittle as she lived the day in and day out life of a crippled woman taking care of her even more disabled husband for decades. Just how do I make that leap to the life of the little sparrow?

Sparrows aren’t special birds, really. They are actually quite ordinary and even more numerous. They are not brightly colored, rather bland and dull. They hop around, only in areas heavily populated by humans, who they depend upon for food. They also rely on manmade structures (building eaves, stop lights, bird houses) to fashion their nests, rather than creating them as more self appreciating birds do! You might even get away with calling them “free-loaders.”

His eye is on the sparrow…and the sparrow naming in scripture was actually commonly exchanged with many other numerous and plain bird species names…and He watches over these dull old free-loading birds? He provides for their every need “though they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns…” (Matthew 6:26). And now understanding the abundance of sparrows, Jesus’s words take new meaning to me, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

You see, humans are very abundant, indeed. We certainly often feel plain, like the sparrow and if we are honest, we often act like “free-loaders.” But, our Heavenly Father is using this illustration, this use of a common, really unnoticed and honestly, slightly annoying bird to show us that His eye…it is even on this sparrow…so surely, He watches over every single one of us.

If our God loves such a tiny little nothing of a bird so much that He sees each one, when they rise and when they fall to the ground…what does that say about the love He has for you and me. He actually created us in His image. He did not fashion us to be dull, bland or plain. Each of us unique, God’s beautiful masterpiece of DNA, specific only to one. He knows how many hairs are on each of our heads!

Let us take heart that “we are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31) and that if His eye is on each little sparrow…it is most certainly on us, the pinnacle of His creation. He loves us, He treasures us, He delivers us. Let us “draw the closer to Him… from care He sets (us) free.”

It is the abiding in Christ alone that made Mrs. Doolittle’s heart and attitude shine. While she waited patiently, withstood, endured without yielding and tolerated her earthly afflictions, it can only be deduced that she gathered strength and perspective for this by remaining (my favorite definition of abiding) in constant communion with God. She knew that He loved her with a radical love, a love that He even used plain little birds, that He also deeply loves and cares for… to illustrate. And she shared that love with her life. And that life inspired this beautiful song that has touched so many.

Let us abide in the only ONE who loves us so very powerfully that He is able to speak to our hearts through song, written and spoken word, whatever avenue it takes to invite us in to His beautiful nest of love.

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