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The Cardinal

Updated on February 5, 2015
This is a female Northern cardinal I photographed in my yard.
This is a female Northern cardinal I photographed in my yard.

All my life I’ve heard people say, “The Lord answers the prayers of a child,” and I’ve come to really believe it, because some of the most tender responses I’ve received from Jesus have come in answer to my most childlike prayers. Like the time I prayed for a cardinal to come to my crepe myrtle tree. I was folding clothes on a sunny day in early summer and kept glancing outside the window at the budding crepe myrtle. Everything outside seemed bright and cheerful and full of sparkle. I had every reason to be happy, but I wasn’t. For some unexplainable reason, I felt like God was far, far away.

“Strange,” I thought, “all of nature is rejoicing in the newness of summer, but for some reason it seems more like winter in my heart. Are you really there, Lord?” I asked in earnestness. Then impulsively, I added, “Could you send a cardinal to light on the branches of the crepe myrtle—just to reassure me that you hear, that you understand, and that you’re really present?”

The adult in me said, “What a silly prayer!” But the child in me kept looking for bright red feathers. None appeared.

Three days later, I was once again folding clothes near the open window, but this time, my mind was on the task at hand. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of something moving in the branches of the crepe myrtle. On closer inspection, I noticed a mama cardinal sitting serenely in a little nest cleverly camouflaged by the foliage. The sight of her brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the prayer I had prayed a few days earlier. I was profoundly touched that God had heard my prayer and answered it, even though it had seemed so childish and trivial. It wasn’t until later, however, that I realized the depth of His answer. As the days went by and I continued to watch the mother bird from my window, the still, small voice of the ages seemed to be saying, “You asked, as a sign of my presence, for a cardinal to light on the branches of the tree, but I have chosen to send you a truer sign. Like the mother bird in the limbs of this tree, I do not make brief little visits and then leave. I make my home within you; I come to stay. Like her, I remain close by, always nurturing, always guarding, always teaching. Remember that, especially on days when I seem far away and my presence seems camouflaged. Always know that no matter what, deep in your heart, I am there eternally.”

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