“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper just running down the edges of different countries and continents, looking for something—”
Last week I was walking on the beach and thinking of several people in my life—in particular, a former student and now CEO—and seeking a word for her hectic, chaotic life and a sudden, shattered personal relationship.
There was a chill in the air as the result of a recent cold front that has moved, like a Canadian refrigerator truck, into the area. I was wearing a thick sweatshirt and it almost wasn’t enough.
Despite the cold, the waves were churning.
Then I saw it: a solitary sandpiper.
The thought came to me that if I were but to know more about this simple sandpiper, I would know infinitely more about how God operated in His universe.
And decipher the dilemma facing my friend.
First and foremost, the sandpiper was so, so busy. Flittering about here and there, in perfect harmony with the incoming and outgoing waves, scampering on its little legs churning as fast as possible.
I have never seen a lazy sandpiper.
Secondly, God takes care of the sandpipers in His created universe. He equips each of them with a unique survival toolkit: they intuitively know when and where to peck for food, seaborne invertebrates, and other nutrients. This is the essence of Matthew 6:21-27, where Jesus—as part of the Sermon on the Mount—said, “Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”
One essential part of the sandpiper’s toolkit is of particular interest to me. Sandpiper bills have built-in special sensory receptors—Herbst avian mechanoreceptors—found within densely packed pits in the bird’s beak. This essentially gives the sandpipers a “sixth sense” allowing them to detect the movement of worms or small invertebrates in the water and shallow sand, even several centimeters away from the bill.
God’s creation is amazing.
Call me crazy, but I believe that Christian believers similarly can operate with a spiritual “sixth sense” in this world—and adroitly keep one step ahead of catastrophic pitfalls in this world; not to mention obtain daily sustenance—by walking in the spiritual gifts as described by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth.
Thirdly, sandpipers operate on the fringes. The sandpiper’s busy legs always keep them one step ahead of disaster. As the foamy waves roar in, the sandpiper beats a hasty retreat. They are never inundated by the churning waves. Nor are they intimidated by them. Instead, as the waves begin their shimmering withdrawal back to the sea, the sandpiper chases after them: busily pecking at tumbling sandworms or other tasty seaborn morsels. Then, just ahead of the new waves, the dance begins anew.
Balancing on the fringes, it seems to me, is the key to living a successful life. Intuitively sensing when the ocean’s waves are coming is essential. At the same time, we must recognize the unique opportunities inherent in each wave (as well as the danger); the wave brings life, new food for growth, and new challenges. The joy of cashing in on life’s spiritual rewards—especially as the wave recedes and we chase it back to the sea—has very little meaning without the initial wave itself.
In this way, I respectfully suggest, each of us reflect this wonderous rhymical interplay of sandpiper and sea—a true dance of nature—that has taken place since the dawn of time. In the natural rhythm of the beach, this “dance” is repeated every daylight hour by sandpipers everywhere, on every shoreline, at the edge of every ocean around the globe. Just one of myriad pieces of a natural waltz that reflects the constancy of God in His universe.
Like each one of us.
Then, finally, just as quickly as the sandpiper appeared it was gone. I walked up the shoreline in the hope I could catch sight of the little sandpiper again. But to no avail. Both the sandpiper and its fleeting bit of insight into God’s way of doing things were gone.
Just that quick.
Leaving only these scattered fragments of afterthought.
In the same way, it seems to me, we are prone to forget the subtle truths that God whispers into our spirit during special windows of time which, in turn, (and all-too-often) leave only fleeting memories of what took place.
Here one moment and gone the next.
Just like the sandpiper.
 Sandpipers belong to a large family, Scolopacidae, of migratory wading shorebirds, also called curlews, snipes, and calidris. Their bills have sensitive tips with numerous corpuscles of Hebst (avian mechanoreceptors), enabling them to locate buried prey items, which they typically seek with restless running and probing. For those interested in deeper research on the topic, see Theunis Piersma, Family Scolopediae (Snipes, Sandpipers and Phalarops), Vol. 3, (Lynx: Barcelona), 1996.
 Christa Leste-Lasserre, “Bird beak extra sense evolved more than to million years ago,” New Scientist, Dec. 2, 2020. What science perceives as a specialty capability that took untold eons of time to evolve, I believe God created in a single miraculous act of creation.
 1 Corinthians 12: 8-10.