The Untidy ‘Elepaio

Hawaii_Elepaio_(Chasiempis_sandwichensis)_(26372854912)Most ‘elepaio, it seems, take a good deal of pride in their nests.

The ‘elepaio is a small songbird who lives out in the koa and ohi’a forests. It’s colored tan and gray, and it’s a curious bird who might just fly over to get a good look at you as you’re walking in the woods.

That has nothing to do with the story, by the way; it’s just so you might recognize one if you see one.

‘Elepaio mothers take a great deal of effort to build their nests in the tree branches. They weave their cup-shaped nests from grasses and bark and even spider silk, and they trim everything up so that it looks neat and tidy.

There was one mother bird, however, whose nests, while not actually being a shocking mess, nevertheless always looked… unfinished. Grass ends would stick up from the edges instead of being carefully tucked away. Bits of spider silk waved in the breeze. And in some places you could actually see the underlying structure of the nest.

The other ‘elepaio thought she was a pretty careless, untidy bird.

One of the younger ones, however, noticed something after a few windy days had gone by, and they’d endured some rain showers. When those things happened, everybody had to repair their nests. Rain and wind force you to do that sort of thing.

Most of the ‘elepaio had to undo a good deal of work in order to get to the thing that needed to be replaced or fixed. They’d untuck grasses and pull out bits of bark until the problem was visible.

The untidy ‘elepaio, however, always seemed to get her nest repaired before anybody else. The problem areas were easier for her to reach. She did less removing and more replacing.

So the young bird flew over to ask for her secret.

“It’s nothing special,” she said. “I just leave gaps in the nest where there will probably be a need. There’s always something. I’m just a little more ready for it.”

She left her gaps where the new needs might arrive.

I don’t always explain my stories, but today I will. Because this story is not about being messy and not picking up your things and putting them away. I could get in a lot of trouble with your parents if that’s what you decide, and for that matter, if you don’t pick up those plastic building blocks at night you’ll step on one when you get out of bed in the morning, and then nobody will be happy.

It’s also not an excuse for not finishing your homework. You should finish your homework. That will make your parents, and your teacher, and eventually you, much happier.

No, this story is about not seeing ourselves as finished. None of us are ever “finished,” we learn new things all our lives. This story is about making sure that you always leave a place in your life to learn something new, and grow some more, and become a you who’s more you than you were before.

Leave some places in you where the world, and where God, can help you learn and grow.


The photo is by Dominic Sherony – Hawaii Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis), CC BY-SA 2.0,

One thought on “The Untidy ‘Elepaio

  1. Pingback: Sermon: “Please, God: Not a Fresh Start” | Church of the Holy Cross Sermon: “Please, God: Not a Fresh Start” | God's still speaking from Hilo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.