Be On Guard by Patty LaRoche

He’s something, isn’t he? He and his friends hang out on the pier where my stepdaughter Nanette lives in California. Last December, Dave and I were there, and on our early-morning walk, “Birdy” perched harmlessly along the rail. Other pelicans—not as large or arrogant—occupied space nearby, but my eyes were drawn only to this stately creature, wings outstretched, as if showing off his finest Yoga move.

On our return, Dave was several steps ahead of me, fascinated with the local fishermen’s catches. I lingered to watch an elderly woman, encircled by Birdy’s friends congregated at her feet, begging for their morning ration of bread crumbs.

Birdy, not one to lower himself to mere croutons, sat, loftily looking down at the feeding frenzy below. I was drawn to him, enticed by his self-importance. That’s when I shot this picture…and that’s when the unexpected became…well, in my case, the expected.

I turned my attention to where Dave had sauntered, just in time to get hit upside my head with what felt like a bowling ball, causing me to stagger enough that some passersby caught me before I rammed into the rail. Suddenly I was getting more attention than Bird-Feeder-Woman. “Wow! He hit you really hard.” “Are you all right? I’ve never seen anything like that, and I come here every day.”

(Like I said, “expected.”)

Apparently, Birdy had attempted to take flight, but his body acted more like a 747 than a normal, 12-pound pelican. Or he was punishing me for taking my eyes off of him. All I know is, my “harmless” bird-buddy was anything but. My head was proof.

Have you ever been stunned when something you considered harmless, wasn’t? It could be as simple as a bad shrimp or leaving your purse in a shopping cart or an impromptu bet gone bad. Or maybe it was something more. A life-long friendship turned sour. A brotherly investment in which you ended up holding the empty bag. A one-time, sneak-peek at a porn sight that betrayed your spouse’s trust. The list is endless. I’m betting we all have a Birdy story.

Adam and Eve sure did. Enticed by the “harmless” serpent, they tasted the forbidden fruit, and sin entered the world.

Samson sure did. One “harmless” look at Delilah caused him his ultimate blindness and death.

King David sure did. His “harmless” lust for Bathsheba turned to immense grief for him and his family.

Your Birdy won’t by my Birdy, but we deceive ourselves when we foolishly fail to recognize the warning signs. Birdy’s wings were not a harmless Yoga move. They were a “Get out of my way, Dummy! I’m getting ready to take flight” move.

Jesus warned us to beware of what we treat as “harmless”: sin and evil. He said: “Watch out! Be on guard” (Luke 12:15). Had I applied that with Birdy, I would have saved myself one gigantic headache…which, yes, I realize, is better than an eternal one.

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