By: Graham McVicker
Have you ever stopped to admire a bird's nest? Sure, they’re not all that pretty to look at themselves, but the fact that birds were designed with the innate ability to build nests for their young is fascinating. Humanity has made so much, yet none of it can be done without practice or knowing how. But birds can weave intricate nests out of twigs, grass, and weeds on instinct alone. Many animals build homes on instinct, but none seem as intricate to me as a bird nest. It has to have the right material, be at the right height for the bird, and be able to accommodate all of the mother’s eggs before they’re laid. Building that based on instinct is quite a feat. Of course, admiring an empty bird nest is one thing. Looking at one that is being used is quite another.
Recently, I discovered there is a pair of cardinals nesting in bushes near the front door of my house. Up until then, I’d only seen nesting birds from a distance, but with this nest, I was able to catch a glimpse of the mother cardinal and her eggs: four blue speckled gems. I checked up on the nest a few times over the next couple of weeks and before I knew it all four eggs had hatched. In their place were four tiny hatchlings not even old enough to open their eyes. As I saw them sitting in their nest with mouths wide open waiting for their mother to bring back dinner, I started to think about how important the mother was to these four chicks. Without the mother, they would lose food, protection, and guidance. If the mother can survive and feed her chicks, they will grow into adults who would, in turn, go out and raise their own young. As I sat thinking about this my mind wandered. I thought about where these birds would go after they left the nest, if predators would find the nest, and so on. As my mind wandered, God used this bird nest to reveal that the Christian spiritual life is not all that dissimilar to this mother cardinal and her chicks.
As Christians, we are called to serve in a role similar to the mother cardinal by guiding both nonbelievers and believers in discipleship. In Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (New International Version). Whether or not you remember these verses, most Christians know this as the Great Commission. These are some of the most important verses in the Bible, yet some of the hardest to really understand. Growing up, I never really knew what it meant to disciple someone. Sure, I’d heard the word used in sermons and lessons, but in my mind, it was always something that people with spiritual authority did. Like a pastor, church elder, or a missionary. It wasn’t something I could do, being so young. This was my perception of discipleship until I entered college. As I began to dive deeper into the Gospel through various Bible studies, I discovered I’d been over-complicating what exactly discipleship was.
When we disciple someone, we are meant to serve as a spiritual guide until they are ready to go out and disciple others, much like that the mother cardinal is doing right now with her chicks. We serve as guides, hoping to show the person we’re discipling how to lead a Christian life, help them find places to get fed spiritually, and help them recognize sin struggles they might have. I believe this is something anyone can do because anyone can be discipled. Sure, most people think about discipling nonbelievers, but we should also be striving to disciple Christians who are struggling with their faith to some degree. Whether it is a long-term relationship or you just need quick spiritual help from a fellow believer to get back on track, discipleship is something we all need at some point in our lives. Of course, finding someone to disciple or someone who can disciple you isn’t always the easiest thing. I’d be lying if I said either of those ever went perfectly for me. Unlike birds building nests and raising their young, we don’t have much of an instinct to go on when it comes to discipleship. Like with most things in life, we just have to be patient and pray. In time God will guide us to people we can open doors for or that open doors for us, even if we don’t recognize it in the moment. He could call us at any time; in church, in class, at work, during a late-night conversation, out hiking on a trail, during a Zoom call, or in some other place. All we can do is do our best to be ready to serve those who haven’t started or need help in their walk with Christ so that they can find ways to grow spiritually and eventually disciple others on their own.