The ostrich leaves its eggs to the earth, and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a wild animal may trample them … yet it has no fear; because God has made it forget wisdom, and given it no share in understanding. When it spreads its plumes aloft, it laughs at the horse and its rider. – Job 39:13-18
In these verses, God is talking to Job about that most wondrous creation, the ostrich. God is pointing out that the ostrich is careless with its eggs—just dropping them anywhere on the ground—unafraid that the eggs will be trampled on by other beasts.
Why is the ostrich so unconcerned? Because God has “given it no share in understanding.” The weird bird has “forgotten wisdom.” It has no fear, but on the other hand it’s not very bright. God makes this sound like an advantage for the ostrich which, though unable to fly, is nevertheless the fastest two-legged animal on earth, able to outrun a horse. (This is true, go ahead and Google it.)
So it seems a bit cruel of God to bring up the ostrich, blasting past horses and laughing, to over-burdened Job, who isn’t going anywhere and hasn’t had a laugh in a while.
As for the witless ostrich, when it is threatened and unable to take off, it does what it’s best known for, which is to fall to the ground and stretch out its neck in an attempt to be less visible. (It doesn’t actually bury its head in the sand, but close enough.)
How funny of God to create an ostrich with this combination of features: the ability to run like hell and the tendency to bury its head in the sand believing it’s therefore invisible.
Probably we have all tried one or both of these solutions to problems. But in the words of Joe Louis, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
May I not forget whatever wisdom you choose to give me, or flap my wings wildly thinking I can fly, or stick my neck out believing I’m invincible. May I cherish those times when I seem to have a share of understanding.
Christina Villa is Philanthropy/Communications Consultant at The Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, New York, NY.