Photo and Commentary ©2023 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Complex things seldom have satisfactory, simple answers. Take the Long-billed Curlew for instance. It is the largest North American shorebird, yet that fact is lost next to its gargantuan- sized bill. Even those who placed it in the genus Numenius gave it that name as a not so subtle reference to a new crescent moon.

Imagine questions a child might struggle with after being introduced to this species. Since they hatch from eggs, why doesn’t their bill break the shell? The answer is simply because the bill isn’t that long before they hatch. It’s just about the length of the head which means it needs to be tucked tightly away. If they nest out in the open grass prairies, why do they have webbed toes? They may nest out in the grasslands, but they winter along the coastline where there’s plenty of water. Why is its long beak open so wide? While the parents will likely abandon the remaining eggs of a nest that is partially destroyed by predators, once the young hatch, they are vigilant protectors of the young. Here, one of the parents is trying to draw interest to itself in order to draw attention away from the young. At other times males will cooperatively mob a would-be predator to drive it away from the nest. Oftentimes, a question that seems to have no easy answer is easily resolved once the whole picture is seen.

But it’s much easier for us to say that about a child’s questions. Imagine the frustration the disciples must have had after Jesus told them He was going to leave them: “Yet I am telling you the simple truth when I assure you that it is a good thing for you that I should go away. For if I did not go away, the divine helper would not come to you. But if I go, then I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convince the world of the meaning of sin, of true goodness and of judgment.” (John 16:7,8 J.B. Phillips New Testament) Simple was all they had at the moment, but as the Spirit was given, they too were able to grasp the big picture, and look what a difference it made in them.