One morning when I arrived at the tennis courts to teach a lesson, I was quite amazed to spot what appeared to be a duck on the court. I got a cardboard box out of the equipment shed and my student and I were able to catch the bird and put it in the box. Upon closer examination, I recognized that it was a pied-bill grebe. It had rained the night before and the court, which is blue in color, probably appeared as a pond from above and all we could figure is that the grebe had been flying over and decided to land on the “pond.” Grebes’ legs are located at the very rear end of their bodies, making them excellent swimmers but cumbersome on land. Because of this limitation, the grebe spends little time out of the water except for flying. They get up speed for takeoff by scooting along the water. But on the solid tennis court, this grebe was apparently unable to get airborne.
I called the Fish and Game Department and they suggested I take the grebe out to the Fish Hatchery where there are some ponds often used by ducks and geese. When I released this pied-bill grebe, there happened to be a group of grebes on the pond, so hopefully this one was accepted and fit right in. Who knows, it may have been reunited with its own family!
As is true with all of God’s creatures, the pied-bill grebe has some amazing features. First of all, “pied” means “covered with spots of two or more colors,” and the pied-bill grebe has dark-colored spots on its bill. In the water a grebe (which weighs only about one pound) closely resembles a small duck. What distinguishes the grebe is that it floats at a higher level than a duck normally would. But when danger approaches, the grebe is able to control the level of buoyancy by forcing air out between its feathers to the point where only the head is visible above the surface. The grebe can also dive to thirty feet beneath the surface and remain there for more than a minute. It may resurface a great distance from where it dived and will just poke its head out to check for danger. This tactic gave it the name “water witch” by hunters. The grebe makes a floating nest, loosely attached to nearby reeds so that it can rise and fall with water levels. When the grebe leaves its nest, she covers the eggs with vegetation to camouflage them. The pied-bill grebe is a fascinating bird but not one you expect to find on a tennis court!
I’m reminded of an interesting verse written by the Psalmist who was crying out in his affliction, asking for God to come and help him in his time of distress. First he said, “For my days have been consumed in smoke…” (Psa. 102:3) which most of us can relate to right now as our air has been full of smoke for several weeks due to all the wildfires in the area. He goes on to say, “I resemble a pelican of the wilderness…” (v. 6), undoubtedly a reference to his loneliness. You don’t see many pelicans in the desert or pied-bill grebes on a tennis court! They are out of place there. The question, of course, is how and why did they get there? Again, most likely the grebe thought the tennis court was a pond to land on. He was lured into a situation from which he could not find escape.
How like us, as we often are attracted by some of the alluring things of the world, and make some bad choices and end up in situations from which we have great difficulty escaping. It looked and felt good at the time. Rather than take time to consult God’s Word and pray about it and ask the counsel of a godly believer, we make a hasty decision which we soon regret. Adam and Eve, unfortunately set the precedent for us all way back in the Garden of Eden when they were tempted by Satan (through the serpent) to eat of the forbidden fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan got Eve to question what God had said or meant and the fruit did look good and maybe if she ate she really would become like God, so she ate and gave some to Adam and he ate, directly disobeying the clear command from God (Gen. 3:1-7). They suddenly found themselves in a situation from which they could not recover on their own. Praise God for His mercy and grace; He provided a means of forgiveness through the shedding of blood of an innocent substitute (animal) which became the pattern for the whole Old Testament period as priests continually made sacrifices for their own sins and for the sins of the people.
Then Jesus, God the Son, came to earth to be “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The sacrifices by the OT priests could only cover sins but Jesus put sin away by His sacrifice on the cross as He bore the penalty on our behalf. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds we are healed (spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24). “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
We, like Adam and Eve, have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Ro. 3:23) and are in a lost condition from which we cannot recover on our own, no matter how hard we try. No religion or good works can help us escape our position of separation from God because of sin (Ro. 6:23). But, praise God, He provided the way of escape for us through sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Ro. 6:23). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:5-7).
We escape the condemnation of sin by simply repenting of our sin and turning to Christ, putting our complete trust/ faith in His atoning work at the cross and the fact of His resurrection. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).
As believers, we still face the temptations of this world which attempt to distract us from following Jesus and rob us of our joy and witness for Him. Before we “land” on what looks like a nice blue “pond,” let’s be sure to check it out—always make God’s Word your standard for faith and practice. Learn to distinguish between what is a scheme of the adversary and what is God’s plan as revealed in His Word. You don’t want to be like the pied-bill grebe on the tennis court or the pelican in the desert!