Spiritual lesson from a dirty birdbath

By Susan Budensiek - Contributing columnist

I have been seeing the “fear of the Lord” showing up a lot lately in various blogs and prophecies for the new year 2021. I was thinking that since I had seen it so many times, there must be something our Heavenly Father wanted to reveal to me. So, as I thought about that phrase that shows up about 25 times in the Bible depending upon which translation you use, I asked God to reveal to me anything He wanted me to know about it and if I might be making a mistake in my walk, I certainly wanted Him to tell me.

God was merciful enough to remind me of a quote I read not long ago that stuck in my mind — “Revelation will always come to the one who is not afraid to admit that what they believed was wrong.” I say “merciful enough” because of course I want any new, correct understanding but I just didn’t think I had any basic stuff wrong … but I did.

Then He brought to mind my dirty birdbath. As fall wore on last year, the birdbath caught lots of leaves from the pear tree beside it. They got waterlogged and turned black, just plain ugly. Besides being ugly to look at, the birds couldn’t even use it so I cleaned it out several times throughout the season.

As I pondered what my dirty birdbath had to do with anything, it became plain God was telling me it was time to clean the ugly useless leaves of diminished fear of the Lord out of the birdbath of my spiritual health. I was prompted to look back at my journey to spiritual maturity, to think back to the very beginning. As I let my thoughts wander back in time, so many things came to mind that I thought, “I could write a whole book on this!”

But to keep this short and relevant to the point, I moved the big metaphorical box of memories of my spiritual journey back in the corner of my mind and kept just the dirty birdbath lesson up front for now. And then I wondered where, when, how, etc. did I go wrong? Where did I lose my bearings? Did I ever have it right?

I grew up in a traditional Lutheran church. After I got saved when I was 21 and married, there was no discipleship, no one to teach me what I needed to know beyond the act of accepting Christ. I was on my own. So, when we moved from the Upper Midwest to Tennessee where churches are very focused on being evangelical, it was like a breath of fresh air. We suddenly had a real church family at the little Baptist church down an obscure dirt road. Baptism in a creek nearby and new friends from church that socialized outside of church and included our family was wonderful.

Well, I got so enthralled in it all that I just accepted everything these people did and believed, and as I did, I let the reverence for God slip almost totally out of sight. That was the late 1980s and since then I no longer see any of those people and I have learned much. I came to the realization that not everything was as good as it seemed at first and as I identified each error, I repented.

But the oh so important fear of the Lord I was raised with had slipped into obscurity throughout our American culture as we seemed to prefer seeing God as our buddy rather than our Most High God. I never realized I needed to repent of my lack of proper fear of the Lord.

The birdbath was my journey to spiritual maturity. The yucky leaves were things I had just accepted without scrutinizing, examining, and discerning. As the leaves fall from the trees in autumn — it just happens … without my studying it.

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, By which one may avoid the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:27 (NASB)

By Susan Budensiek

Contributing columnist