14 February 2009

Click here for today's Bible reading: Matthew 27-28; Proverbs 15:1-11.

A Not-So-Happy Valentine's Day
Last year was a sad Valentine’s Day. A beloved family was breaking up. After raising several offspring, the parents split up when a young female invaded their happy home. Mom tried to defend her territory, but when Dad started cavorting with the younger female, Mom disappeared. Questions and accusations flew wildly. Why did Mom give up so easily? Why was Dad so easily lured away? Why didn’t the young invader find someone her own age—and unattached!? Everyone who loved them was distraught.

This drama played out in a nest of Bald Eagles monitored by a webcam mounted 90 feet off the ground in a tree at Norfolk Botanical Gardens. The emotionally charged conversation took place in an internet chat room.

Biologists had warned the amateur eagle enthusiasts not to attribute human values to the birds. But everyone did. We all wanted the original couple to reunite. The conflict at the nest cost several would-be eagles their lives. Two eggs were damaged in fights at the nest, and two more eggs died when they were left alone during cold weather.

As chat room members expressed their sadness, I thought about the sadness God feels when human families break up. God used strong language to express how he feels about divorce. "'I hate divorce,' says the LORD God of Israel" (Malachi 2:16). He also tells us why he hates it.
You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:11-15)
So many families break up these days that it's hardly surprising when I hear about it. I'm sad for the children, of course. But the parents—at least one of them—have decided that there's no alternative. It will be better in the long run for everyone, they say. Maybe. Maybe not. According to God's design, what's best for the children is two parents committed to God, to each other, and to their children.

The eagle family break up was not only sad, it was personally disconcerting. My reaction to it made me question my values. Why did I feel more emotion about the break up of an eagle family hundreds of miles away than I do for the countless human family break ups in my own community?

Marriage is so important to God that he uses it to symbolize his covenant with his people. And broken families are so serious to him that he won't even receive our offerings. God uses marriage to keep the world orderly and peaceful. When a marriage breaks up, so does part of the world. Faithfulness, commitment, and loyalty are important to God, and he used an eagle family to remind me.

Later in the season, the original eagles reunited and hatched one egg. So the eagles also gave me an idea how God feels when a marriage is saved.

This season, the eagle pair rebuilt their nest from a previous year that had been damaged by a storm. Perhaps last year's nest had too many bad associations. They returned to the site of happier years. Yesterday, the female laid their second egg of the season. The eagle enthusiasts are on the watch again, hoping for no drama and a happy ending. And that is my hope for all of God's families.

Click here to see the webcam.
Click here to see a slide show of the first egg laying.
Click here to see a slide show of the second egg laying.

Click here to see the complete one-year schedule.

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