Have you ever found yourself banging your head against a wall? How’d it feel? Did it help the situation? A friend of mine in New Mexico got so upset one day that he broke the sheet rock wall in his house with his head. After recovering from the concussion, he paid someone to repair the wall; but the situation he reacted to didn’t change because HE didn’t change.
Several weeks ago, Carol and I were finishing breakfast when I heard the unmistakable sound of someone banging its head against a solid object. This guy wasn’t upset or angry. He was hungry and looking for food. He was pounding away on the branch making bits of bark fly as he was gathering ants and other bugs with his long, barbed tongue.
It was a woodpecker.
I’m not an ornithologist, but this bird looked like a large Pileated Woodpecker. These guys can grow to almost 20 inches long, have a wingspan up to 29 inches, and weigh up to 12 ounces. It was drumming on one of our branches, grabbing nourishment with its tongue, and apparently taking it to someone in a nest because it made eight or nine trips to a distant tree while we were watching. I read that some woodpeckers have up to 9-inch tongues, but the Pileated Woodpecker’s tongue is only about 4 inches long.
These birds are members of the Picidae family, and peck like a jackhammer at about 20 hits per second! Compare that to a good machine-gun that fires 1,000 bullets per minute, which is16 per second.
The International Ornithological Congress says 236 species of woodpeckers make up the Picidae family world-wide, but only 23 species inhabit the United States.
How do woodpeckers survive the banging without getting headaches or concussions? God provided them with amazing safety features.
The beak consists of three-layers. The tough outer cover is called rhamphotheca made of scales from keratin, a middle layer of porous bone, and an inner fibrous layer made of mineralized collagen. Its structure absorbs and distributes much of the impact throughout the body which reduces the strain on the brain.
The skull is made of sponge-like bone, and liquid surrounds the brain. Both skull and liquid absorb a lot of the rapid-fire shock, and a safety belt called the hyoid bone that wraps around the brain keeps the brain from rattling. While pounding the tree, a thick nictitating membrane covers the eyes, protecting them from flying shrapnel. Also, the slitted nose is protected with special feathers.
Many of these critters are antisocial and don’t mix well with others. In this sense, “Birds of a feather flock together” doesn’t always hold true. Most are territorial and are jealous of their turf.
I read that wild woodpeckers live from 4 to 12 years, but under ideal conditions they might live 25 to 30 years.
The most famous woodpecker in America is the cartoon Woody Woodpecker that was created by Ben Hardaway in 1940. I always liked that cartoon. Hardaway styled Woody as a combination of several birds, including the Pileated Woodpecker.
Thinking back on my friend in New Mexico, he wasn’t created like a woodpecker, so he shouldn’t have physically banged his head. And he discovered that becoming a head-banger doesn’t do any good.
What about figuratively banging our heads? Normally, that means we are frustrated, angry, or worried. However, if we get upset, it blocks the creativity we need for correcting the situation. Rather than demanding that the situation change, we need to change our method of responding.
Storms of all sizes and types are an integral part of life. But as devastating as the storm may be, it is our reaction that exacerbates the problem. Getting upset and banging our heads only makes things worse.
So what should we do?
Because we have a difficult time changing our circumstances, we need to learn how to change ourselves. Romans 12:2 tells us don’t act like the world but ask God to help us change the way we think. Then we will learn to know God’s will for us. Interestingly, when we change the way we think and act, our circumstances often change.
Psalms and Proverbs provide the principles for handling almost any situation that life can present. You may scoff at that; but when you recognize and admit your need for help, God will be waiting for you. We don’t need to be a head-banger; leave that option for the woodpeckers.