PASTOR'S PERSPECTIVE: HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW
The story is told about President Theodore Roosevelt having a spoiled and unruly daughter named Alice. She used to interrupt the President while he was meeting with his cabinet. After a third interuption, one of his cabinet members chided him and asked him to prevent further interruptions, the President replied, "I can control the affairs of State or I can control Alice, I cannot possibly do both at the same time!" Sometimes, as children of God, we wonder if our Heavenly Father is aware of our situations. At times we wonder if He knows, cares, or controls these events that seem to disrupt our lives, and bring worry and anxiety our way. Unlike President Roosevelt, Our Heavenly Father CAN run the universe and attend to our lives, all at the same time, without any difficulty whatsoever! Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father (knowing). The very hairs of your head are numbered, Fear not therefore, Are you not worth much more than MANY sparrows?" (Matt. 10:29-31). Sparrows were the most insignificant little birds in Biblical days. Their value was insignificant. But not to God. They were a nuisance when they would build their nests in the eaves of houses and other structures. But God, according to the Psalmist, did not allow them to be driven from the Temple, but their singing was actually a model for faithful worshippers to God's House to emulate, as they bask in the security of the Lord's House. "How amiable are thy Tabernacles O Lord; Even the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, that she may lay her young, even at thine altars O LORD of Hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house for they will still be praising Thee" (Ps. 84:1-4).
One of my favorite old hymns that remind us of that truth is the hymn-His Eye Is On the Sparrow. The lyrics to the song are beautiful. "Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely? And long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion. A constant Friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. Let not your heart be troubled. These tender words I hear. And resting in His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears. For by the path He leadeth; But one step I may see. But His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He leadeth me. Whenever I am tempted. Whenever clouds arise. When songs give place to sighing. When hope within me dies. I draw the closer to Him. From care He sets me free. For His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me!" Whitney Houston sang that not long before her death. Gladys Knight sang it at Michael Jackson's funeral. It was popularized by George Beverly Shea at Billy Graham crusades. Recently it was sung in the movie Sister Act II; most recently by Darlene Love at the Oscars in 2014.
It is interesting to hear the inspiration behind the song. It was actually written by a Baptist Pastor and his wife in 1905. They lived in Elmira, New York. Civilla Martin tells of how her and her husband were inspired to write the song. "Early in the Spring of 1905, my husband and I were living in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs Dolittle-true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bed-ridden for nigh of twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while visiting the Doolittles my husband commented on their hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Dolittle's reply was simple: 'His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!' The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow'was the outcome of that experience."
Probably the one that epitomizes the message of that old hymn the most was Ethel Waters. His Eye is On the Sparrow is the title of her autobiography. She was a black entertainer of the early nineteen hundreds that lived out that hymn. Ethel Waters was born on Halloween 1896, to Louise Anderson, the product of a rape of her 12 year old mother, by pianist John Waters. She grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, in the slums of Philadelphia, raised in poverty, and running wild. To hear her tell it she had a very difficult childhood, "I never was a child. I was never cuddled or liked,never had a lap to sit in, or understood by my family." Her mother gave her to be married to an abusive older man that she ran away from. From the age of 14 she was on her own. She worked at a Philadelphia motel as a maid for $4.00 a week. On her 17th Birthday she attended a nightclub Halloween party on Juniper Street. She was persuaded to sing two songs which impressed the audience so much she was offered professional work at the Lincoln Theater in Baltimore. She then hit vaudeville, and movies, and became one of the highest paid black performers of her day. Some of her hits were Am I Blue?;Sweet Georgia Brown; Stormy Weather; Heat Wave; Her movies: On with the Show; Gift of Gab; Tales of Manhattan; The Member of the Wedding; and The Sound and the Fury. Most of all, in 1957, she had re-dedicated her life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and was asked to give her testimony at a Billy Graham Crusade, at Madison Square Garden. She found love and acceptance and a calling as she finished out her years, dying in 1977 a part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team, and her story is part of the story at the Billy Graham Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. A little sparrow may fall and struggle, but not without our Heavenly Father seeing and providing for his own.
This was brought home to me in a very personal way years ago. I was very close to my older cousin Bobby. Bobby was a little backward, and his lack of confidence caused people to pick on him. When we went to school together, especially in Junior High School, I used to watch over him, and protect him from bullies, even though he was a class ahead of me. But there came a time when He went on to High School, and I had to finish 8th grade, and then actually due to zoning, would go to a different High School in Decatur. The school Bobby had to go was noted for being one of the roughest in Decatur at the time. (This was late 1960's during the race riots, etc. Tension was high to say the least) I was more than a little concerned for my cousin. After the first month of school everything seemed to be going well. Bobby was doing fine, and without my protection I might add! He did fine all four years and graduated, and later went to the military. Years later, while I was working at Tate-Lyle (Staleys) in Decatur, I was working with a tall black man named Searcy "Slick" Walker. After I introduced myself, and he heard my last name he asked me if I was related to Robert Woodrum. I told him I was-that he was my cousin. He then told me an incredible story. The first day of high school Bobby was being beaten up by a group of "tough guys". Searcy, (Slick), came upon them and put a stop to it, and rescued my cousin. He warned those picking on him that he was his friend, (actually he had never met him before that day), and if he ever caught them bothering him again they would all have to answer to him. They became best of friends. That one incident turned a nightmare into a lasting close friendship. Our heavenly Father saw a sparrow about to fall and sent someone to assist and protect. My anxiety and worry was for naught. It always is. "Are we not worth much more than MANY sparrows?" Yes, HIS EYE IS ON THIS LITTLE SPARROW...AND I KNOW HE WATCHES ME...AND YOU! QUIT WORRYING!