The mortar between some of the bricks of our house near our back door was falling out and I was sure our kids were to blame.
They’d been out there, I assumed, picking at loose mortar, spraying it with the hose, jamming in foreign objects. I had my discipline speech ready. I was contemplating the right punishment to mete out. But it wasn’t the kids’ fault. It turns out house sparrows have been pecking at our mortar as a source of dietary grit. Which means, of course, I’ve been thinking about grit.
It’s hard to believe that these otherwise lovely creatures have been wreaking havoc on the exterior walls of my house. They aren’t searching for bugs. They aren’t nest-building. They are finding and swallowing small bits of stone to help digest their food. It turns out that many animals lacking teeth--most notably birds--use this grit to aid digestion. Here’s more from Wikipedia: "A bird swallows small bits of gravel that act as 'teeth' in the gizzard, breaking down hard food such as seeds and thus helping digestion."
So, honestly, I’ve mostly been thinking about how to prevent these sparrows from destroying my house. I’ve set up an ‘alternative’ grit source (i.e. sand in a bucket, which thus far has seemed un-appetizing to said sparrows). I’ve blanketed their preferred feeding zone with a large blue tarp in order to dissuade them from attacking our house (and perhaps persuade them to try the neighbor’s instead). And I’ve told my wife to invest in some rubber snakes or one of those big plastic owl things to scare the birds off.
I’ve also been thinking about grit’s value to these birds and corollaries to our spiritual lives. Many Christians struggle when it comes to ‘digesting’ the Bible. It can be a difficult book, far removed from us in time and place; filled with ideas that don’t make sense. We, like sparrows, need daily grit in our spiritual lives to help us digest God’s Word.
God provides that grit for His people, so that His Word will be useful and nourishing. The Holy Spirit acts as the True Grit for the Christian. As Jesus says of the Spirit, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)
Friends--those who can speak wisdom and truth with boldness--offer another source of dietary grit to the Christian. In making sense of life and in making sense from God’s Word, the support and encouragement of others is essential. The apostle Paul fulfilled this role for many of the earliest churches. As he wrote to new Christians in the city of Corinth, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.” (1 Corinthians 3:2) His teaching and friendship made God’s truth useful in the lives of the Corinthians.
My hope for all of us, seeking to digest the teaching of Scripture and seeking to make sense of the hard truths of God is that we find gritty friends to love us and that we know the True Grit of the Holy Spirit.