This time of year, there is never any shortage of birds in my yard. Blue Jays, Robins, Cardinals, Bluebirds, Woodpeckers.

This morning, I watched as a bird took flight from a Pine to an Oak and settle in the Poplar tree right beside my patio. As it swooped from one tree to the next, I saw what distinguished it: little white marks on the feathers. It was a Mockingbird.

Blue Jays look like they’re dressed in some kind of old-fashioned royal uniform with a pointy hat. Robins have a reddish brown breast. Cardinals – the males anyway, are such a true and glorious shade of red, it sometimes takes my breath away when I see one.

I used to only be able to recognize a Mockingbird when it was in flight. As soon I saw the white markings, I knew. Identity established.

Harper Lee and her character Atticus, immortalized Mockingbirds through a best-selling novel. But based on my observations, they are not a creature to be romanticized. They are aggressive little creatures and will dive bomb you from the treetops if they perceive that you are a threat. They use their outer markings on their wings as an intimidation to other birds, and I’ve seen them scare away anything that even looks like it might disrupt their sanctuary. They are intelligent, clever creatures. They know what sets them apart in their world and they use those things to benefit them. So, over the years, I’ve gotten to where I can identify a Mockingbird, even from a distance. Because of its behavior.

All of us have unique “markings”. Personality traits, past experiences that have made us who we are. We are given talents to use both for our own benefit, and to benefit others. But oftentimes those parts of ourselves are masked. People only see us and recognize us when we are “in flight”, i.e. at our best.

What if we were so authentically ourselves, that people knew, immediately, who we are when they saw us?

In an increasingly “virtual” society, where people seem to interact more online than they do in person, it’s easy to create the persona that you wish people to believe is you. Some people only seem to post pictures of fabulous vacations, loving moments with their families, inspirational thoughts.

I’m certainly a fan of keeping things positive, as much as possible. God knows there’s enough negativity in the world without adding to it.

But what if part of who you are is like a Mockingbird. What if you have an intimidating side? An aggressive side? Should you hide it? It’s part of what make you…you!

Jesus invited his disciples to observe nature. Of the birds, he indicated that we should be more like them. They don’t worry. They just are. They just do what comes most naturally to them, and God takes care of them.

There is beautiful simplicity in that. Just be who we are, using the things that set us apart for our benefit, and the benefit of others, not worrying about how we are perceived. Not worrying about being misunderstood.

A Mockingbird has no evil intentions. It will fight you, but only if provoked or if it feels threatened. And, science even says that Mockingbirds remember. If you threatened it once, it can recognize you again. I think there’s a lesson there also. While humans are capable of forgiveness, we also remember. And sometimes we need to. Sometimes, we need to recall those who are threats to us, and keep them at a distance.

I guess, all in all, I have a healthy respect for Mockingbirds. They know how to use their uniqueness, they aren’t afraid of protecting themselves and their own, and they are confident creatures.

As a Christian, I believe that I am set apart. Not better than someone else. Set apart. I believe that the God that designed these interesting and unique animals in nature goes into even greater detail when it comes to the makeup of his created children. The one thing in nature that He created in his own image.

I believe he gave me talents not like yours, and gave you talents not like mine. So that we could compliment each other. Learn more about the one who created us by recognizing those different “markings”.

I believe he gave me common sense to perceive threats to my physical, spiritual, and mental well being. And the older I get, the less I am afraid to protect myself. I establish an invisible barrier around me and only dive bomb when necessary.

I believe that He gave me the ability to sing the song that needs to be sung in the moment, like a Mockingbird can adjust it’s music to blend in with its surroundings.

The Mockingbird is a survivalist. Not by trying to be something it’s not. But by being authentically true to its instincts.

But there is a flip side to this analogy. We are capable of change.

I certainly believe God desires to shape us into the image of his perfect Christ, but he does not begin with a blank slate. He begins with the unique creation that we are, and emphasizes our strengths, burns away our impurities.

Phony people make me insane. Fake niceties aggravate me. Be who you are. In all of its good, bad, and ugly. God cannot work with plastic. We are His clay. We have imperfections. But he does not throw us away to change us. He lights a refining fire under us and as the heat rises, we become pliable, and he is able to perfect that which he created, that which we have allowed to become misshapen.

Mockingbirds are who they are. Beautiful, clever, unique creations. So are we. But imagine what we would be if we allowed our Creator to perfect us, to highlight our unique “markings” in such a way that when people see us they would immediately know who, and Whose, we are.

The legend says, “’tis a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Maybe because they have so much to teach us.