Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 7, 2020

All of us are in the process of transitioning, of morphing from one stage of development into another. This we often refer to simply as growth. We do so because changes often take place gradually and without detection. However, there are times when the change is so dramatic it is impossible not to notice. In much of the avian world this takes place on an annual basis. Essentially all small songbirds go through an annual molt where all their feathers are replaced. Some, such as this American Goldfinch, also go through a prenuptial molt where the body feathers are replaced resulting in a brighter breeding plumage.

To the casual observer, the rather drab winter plumage assumed by the male leads them to believe goldfinch are absent during the colder months, when in reality they may still be around, with only the brilliant yellow missing. This seasonal transformation is prompted primarily by genetics, which is triggered by hormonal changes. What you see pictured here is the way they would appear in April across much of the country. It will take another month before they will have attained their full breeding plumage.

We humans also experience biological changes, but in addition perhaps are more dramatically influenced by changes in our environment. Things like a fall in the stock market, like the loss of a close friend or relative, or a pandemic, all have an impact upon our being. We are unable to look at the calendar to confirm this is what should be happening to us at this point in time. Without trivializing these realities and the impact they have upon us, I think Philip Yancey in his book Rumours of Another World, captured our proper place amid the chaos: “I take for granted that a creature’s proper response to God is humility. Accepting creatureliness may require that I, like Job, bow before a master plan that makes no apparent sense.” Lest you think this is a call to passiveness where we sit back on our laurels and do nothing, let me assure you this is not the intent, only a call to recognize the limitations of our current understanding.