Monday, January 3, 2011

Cagebound?

I took in this bird once.  He was a cockatiel that came in a ratty old cage, which barely gave him enough room to spread his wings.  I could tell it hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  He was terrified of people.  He didn't play with the toys in his cage.  He spent his days sitting on his perch staring through his bars.  I'd catch him singing once in a while and when I would walk past, he'd stop.  I came to the conclusion that he had never been handled, simply left in the cage to entertain himself.  I named him Corwin. 


Anytime I took an animal in, I researched its species and breed to make sure I knew how to properly care for it.  I learned that birds require lots of handling at a young age so that they can get used to people.  They've gotta be socialized and made part of the family.  Owners have to let them out of their cages so that they can get their exercise and work on socializing.  They've gotta be spoken to and handled gently.  Doing these things makes these (and many other types of birds) fantastic pets!  They can be entertaining and are very smart.  And they can be so affectionate!  But left alone in a cage is kind of like leaving a dog tied up outside with little to no interaction with humans.

Corwin was absolutely terrified of me, of anyone that came close to his cage.  He hissed, shuddered and turned his back to me.  He wouldn't eat if I was around.  If I stuck my hand in his cage to clean it or change out his food and water, he'd hiss and try to bite.  The poor thing had absolutely no trust in me!  One of the things I learned about him and other unsocialized birds is that they get cagebound. 

If I left the cage door open, that bird would not even attempt to venture out.  His cage was his security!  He wanted nothing to do with the big world outside the bars.  And I couldn't blame him!  If I were him, I wouldn't know how good things could be outside the cage.  I wouldn't know where the predators were, when they would get me and where all the safe spots were.  It would be terrifying!  And today I realized that being deployed here is kind of my little birdcage.

I don't know how other deployment sites are, but out here we are confined in such a small place.  Basically a box lined with barbed wire.  We make jokes about being detainees in the camp penn.  A place where you can get glimpses of the sky if you can see between the roofs.  A place where smokers play cards and bet cigarettes.  A place where sleep is filled with the noises of weapons clearing, gym weights clinking and night shifters laughing.  We get our three meals a day, our laundry is done for us as long as we turn it in at the right times.  We find musical people and beg them to play music for us on a Saturday night in the smoke pit where we're allowed no more than two beers.  The routine rarely changes unless we do something really cool like an orphanage or outstation visit.  Once a week, we can play a movie from a projector.   And when someone gets a teddy bear in the mail from a loved one, their eyes light up and everyone else's look down.

Many of us get so used to this that when we do go to the outstations where the pace, noises and foods are different, we can't wait to return.  When I was in the big city doing the shopping for Christmas supplies, I had a big beautiful bed that I couldn't sleep without waking up because of the deafening silence. 

Being here in this small "prison," I've learned the value of my job.  I've grown in my walk with Christ.  I've felt the Holy Spirit in me!  I feel as if I am a totally different person, renewed with clear, wide eyes.  I've shed my past sins and have regained my footing in this path.  I've seen things out here that have proven God right and I can't do anything but feel so blessed.

Knowing that I'll be going back home soon, back to real life, I'm realizing how scared I am!  Sure it's going to be great having a bathroom right down the hall from a bedroom that is all mine and a bed that isn't only twice as wide as I am.  Sure I'll get to actually go to my own home as soon as it's the end of the workday.  But I can't imagine not sleeping just around the corner from my office.  And not running through a gym to get to the bathroom at 5am.  And sleeping in a bedroom all by myself without hearing the sounds of weapons being cleared.

I'm sure that after a week, I'll be back to my old routine doing the same things I'd done before I deployed.  I know that as soon as I get to hold my kids in my arms, I'll remember why I was deployed in the first place.  I guess right now I just feel scared of leaving the box I've gotten to grow comfortable in.  I feel... cagebound.  I'm scared that I will forget the teachings I've learned from Christ through my bible, worship services, and my sisters.  I'll be without my sisters and my chaplain. I'm scared to go off on my own and BE this new person that God has revealed.

After what seemed like forever, Corwin finally started to trust me more.  I took baby steps with him, first sitting by his cage for a few minutes throughout the day just to talk softly to him.  When I reached into his cage, I spoke gently and moved slowly, careful not to make any threatening moves.  After some time, I offered him a bowl of food.  And after a little bit of time after that, he ate out of that bowl-- sometimes he'd stand on the rim of the bowl.  And after that?  He ventured out of his cage.

The difference between Corwin and I is that I KNOW the goodness outside of my cage.  I've felt freedom before.  And my adjustment will only be exercised with remembering how to embrace it and appreciating everything I took for granted.  I'm not sure if he had ever felt that before.  But I do know that it took a lot of courage for him to climb outside his secure little ratty, old cage that he had spent so much of his life in.  And he let go of his fears of the unknown.

In Deuteronomy 1:6,-8 The Lord our God said, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain.  Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates.  See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers--to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--and to their descendants after them."

God has taken me away from my old life, placed me in an entirely new environment with strangers and led me straight to him through them!  My time here was spent appreciating all of the beautiful things He has given me, learning through scriptures the wonders He had done in the past and the amazing things He has waiting for me!  My time here is done.  School is out.  It's now time for me to take possession of this new life He has given me. 

I pray that He will hold me close in my new adventures and whisper reminders should I ever forget He's right by my side in every dark alley.

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