Food in the Gaps


Ohi’a lehua (Ohi’a blossoms)

This story is about a young ‘apapane – a small bird which is part of the Hawaiian “honeycreeper” family – who was looking for food.

As a nestling, he’d been raised to eat whatever his parents put in his mouth, which works pretty well when you’re a young bird. He’d grown bigger, he’d learned to fly, and he’d learned to sip nectar from the ohi’a lehua, the blossoms of the ohi’a tree. In fact, that’s what he’d eaten ever since leaving the nest.

He thought it was delicious.

But now, he was hungry. Trees don’t blossom all the time; the flowers come and go. The bit of forest where he’d grown up had gone through its cycle, and the other, older ‘apapane had already flown off to find food elsewhere, and he hadn’t quite noticed.

He was pretty sure that there were other stands of blooming ohi’a, though – at any rate, he certainly hoped there were! – so he flew up the mountain and down the mountain and from side to side. Truthfully, he ended up flying in circles for quite some time without covering a lot of territory. And the whole time he got hungrier and hungrier.

Finally, he got lucky. One of his circles swept farther away than he’d gone before, and he heard the singing of other ‘apapane. That caught his attention. If they were singing, he thought, then they’re probably not hungry, and that means: Food. And off he flew toward the singing.

Sure enough, there were ‘apapane in the trees, and the trees were festooned with ohi’a lehua.

He gratefully gripped a branch between two clusters of blossoms, and got ready to dip his beak into their flowers. Before he did, something moved along the twigs in front of him. Startled, he took a second look.

There were small insects sharing the tree with him. They were just as attracted by ohi’a lehua nectar as he was, and quite a number were hopping between the blossom clusters.

His first thought was probably similar to what any of us would think: “Ick! There’s a bunch of bugs on my lunch!” But his second thought, which happened between his belly and his beak without spending much time in his brain, was: “I’m hungrier than I ever remember being before. I’ve flown all around, and I need food. Rich food. In fact, I need…”


Yep. He ate the bugs.

Now, I don’t think anyone expected me to compare the goodness of God with eating bugs, but that’s precisely what I’m doing here. Our ‘apapane knew what was good to eat, and he searched for it, and he found it. What he hadn’t imagined was that in the gaps between what he knew, there’d be something he didn’t know, something that would meet a more desperate hunger than he’d felt before.

That’s true for us. Between what we know are the new things God may do for and with us, which will nourish us in ways we haven’t been before, and haven’t needed to be before.

I’ll just mention that the ‘apapane at the bugs and he thought they were pretty good.

What God has for us, waiting between what we know, is even better.

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