The tropical sun beamed down as I peered outside. Banana palms swayed in a grove by the river and the incessant sound of insects filled my ears. A pile of wet clothes lay in a basket at my feet. I looked at the long line stretched to the far end of the yard, then peeked up. No sign of clouds yet, but I knew if I didn’t hang the clothes to dry soon, I would likely have to run out to gather them as the first spits of rain fell. The rains came every day to that part of Papua New Guinea.
So did my neighbour’s pet. I scanned the trees around the house. No sign of him. Maybe he wouldn’t show up today. I hefted the basket and stepped into the yard. I was about half way along the line when the raucous sound tore through the still air. A rush of wing made me duck and my heart raced. I groaned as the huge Hornbill landed a few feet away, tilting his oversized head to peer at me, his blinking eye seeming to say, “Gotcha again!”
Every time I ventured out to hang up the laundry, that bird descended and gave me a fright. Our neighbours had brought the Hornbill home when they discovered it had been injured. Once he was well, the odd creature seemed to delight in being around people. I know it loved to watch me hang up my laundry. Sometimes I would forget it was there until it made a swoop over my head. Then the adrenaline rush would catch me again. A friend has described the sound a Hornbill makes in flight as a helicopter with asthma. It’s an apt description. Apparently the bird is missing a few pinions in its huge wings, so when it flies, the noise is loud and constant.
As I watched that strange and rather ugly bird that day, I realized its lack wasn’t a mistake. It was God’s design. Perhaps the noise the bird’s wings make has some purpose necessary to its survival. Or perhaps the Hornbill is one of God’s object lessons. Every time he takes flight, he announces his lack. There are many around us who do the same. We look at them as slightly “less than,” whether maimed physically, mentally or socially. We pity their weakness, or worse, we condemn them for it.
God sees weakness in a different light. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes his “thorn in the flesh,” and explains – “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” Paul was left to struggle with his “thorn,” and as he struggled he grew in an understanding of God’s grace.
Not all of us are like that Hornbill, whose weakness is obvious. Some of us are able to hide ours very well. But whether our struggles are obvious or not, God is waiting to supply what we need to deal with them, all to His glory. His grace is sufficient.