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The Stranger in the Nest

Updated on March 17, 2011
The Female Cuckoo
The Female Cuckoo | Source
Notice the Odd (Cuckoo) Egg
Notice the Odd (Cuckoo) Egg | Source
Feeding the Baby Cuckoo
Feeding the Baby Cuckoo | Source

The Stranger in the Nest

(A story for Christian boys and girls. Contains a deep spiritual lesson for us Christian adults.)

Have you heard the cuckoo yet? If not, I expect that you soon will, for no one can mistake his call, and sooner or later almost everybody hears him. But have you seen the cuckoo? Ah, that is another question. He is not easy to see; indeed, many people who hear his call year after year have never yet had a clear view of him. I must admit that I have only seen him properly once, and that, strangely enough, was as he was flying over a London street. Even then I could have had no idea of his true story if it had not been told me, for while the cock bird flies about here and there, singing his own special song, it is the hen who is silently and hiddenly doing the work for which cuckoos have become so famous. She knows how to work in secret, even from other birds, and she manages to lay her eggs in their nests without their knowing about it.

Cuckoos really play a trick on their neighbours. Being unable to feed their own young, they deceive pipits and other small birds into hatching and rearing their chicks for them. The plot is made with great care and carried out with much wiliness. First the hen cuckoo chooses the right nests, then she watches them constantly, and at the right time lays just one egg in each nest. She is clever enough to take out one of the eggs which truly belong to the nest, so that the unsuspecting mother-bird goes on keeping the eggs warm and waiting for the little ones to be born, without any idea that really there is a stranger in the home.

And what a stranger! The baby cuckoo is no sooner out of his shell than he goes straight to work on his first main purpose, which is to have the whole nest to himself. Though he has only just been born, he has strong legs and he also has a hollow sort of back. By much effort he manages to get underneath the eggs or other chicks, and holding them on his back he works himself up to the top of the nest, and tips them out on to the ground. If he is to survive, everything else must be thrown out of the nest, so he wastes no time in seeing that this is done. The parent birds seem not to notice or to mind, and they begin with all their might to feed this one baby in the nest. He is all alone, so he gets their full attention, and indeed it takes them all their time to find enough grubs and insects for his food. He grows quickly, has a great appetite and an ever open mouth. So, hour after hour and day after day, the birds go on searching for food in order to rear this monster baby, which has been brought into their nest by a trick. The cuckoo grows much bigger than his foster parents; indeed sometimes they have to perch on his shoulder to put the foot into his beak. Still they work on and one, tiring and wearing themselves out, till at last the young cuckoo leaves them and flies off to spend the Winter abroad. They do not seem to realize that they are rearing an intruder and that in doing so they have been robbed of their own family of little ones.

No doubt this is necessary. God has so provided that cuckoos should be hatched and cared for in this way because their parents just cannot manage it themselves. In the realm of nature cuckoos are very necessary birds, for they have special beaks which enable them to eat tough and hairy caterpillars which would otherwise become a pest. Perhaps God meant them to be a warning to us about spiritual things. Their one egg in a nest means trouble and destruction for innocent birds, remind us of the danger of letting something into our hearts which should not be there.

What is the stranger in the nest for a Christian? Surely it is unbelief in the heart. Just as the cuckoo secretly lays its egg among the proper eggs, and so spoils all else in the nest, so unbelief in the heart will not rest until it has thrown out all the things which ought to be in a Christian’s heart. The cuckoo not only grows by greedily taking everything for itself, but it wriggles and pushes with all its might until all the other eggs are thrown out. If unbelief gets into a heart it will grow bigger and bigger until it crowds out all the blessings of true faith, and all our time and strength will be wasted. Love will be thrown out, then joy, then peace. And so the intruder will take up all the space, demanding our time and energy while robbing us of our true blessings in Christ.

The birds are deceived. They do not know any better. There is no need for us to be deceived though, for the Lord can show us the secret dangers of unbelief and deliver us from the stranger in the nest. Let us pray the prayer of Mark 9.24 – “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Harry Foster, 1955

Note: This was written 55 years ago in a magazine titled ‘A Witness and A Testimony’ that contains spiritual truths unmatched in any other Christian magazine of the 20th or 21st century. I have published it because it is easy to understand and contains an important warning to all born-again Christians about the dangers of unbelief. Pratonix

(Further note: The European cuckoo, or the Common Cuckoo, is a 'brood parasite', which means it has this habit of laying its eggs in other birds' nests. It is unable to rear its young, and hence this strange practice. Pratonix)


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      Annie Gaddis 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this Roland.

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      Ashlee McMillan 6 years ago

      A necessary warning that every believer in Christ should take seriously. Thank you for sharing it.

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      Sam 6 years ago from Tennessee

      up and beautiful! Even though I've heard this story before it is still a good warning that we as God's children be not deceived by the evil one...

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      Daniel 6 years ago

      This is great!

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      Marcia 6 years ago

      Love this article! Going to send it to my son to read to his children!