What We Can Learn From The Hummingbird

Like the hummingbird, there’s a direct correlation between the intensity of our energy burn and our need for an energy return.


So the other day I was watching Wild Kratts with my son (as one does) and it turns out that hummingbirds are really quite remarkable.

For starters, they are basically mini-helicopters, able to hover and move in any direction, and can even fly upside down. They do this by rotating their wings in a constant figure eight motion around 50 times per second. Their heart rate can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute. And if that weren’t enough, for their size, they are the fastest birds in the world. They can fly up 34 mph and dive at speeds in excess of 60 mph, pulling more G’s than a fighter pilot.

But all this energy, speed, and agility comes at a cost. Hummingbirds need to refuel with fresh nectar approximately every 10 minutes or risk starving to death. Yeah, that’s intense.

So, what can we learn from the hummingbird?

Well obviously there’s a lot to be said for hard work, flexibility, and speed. They model those qualities well for us.

But they also remind us that the faster we go, the more deliberate we need to be about slowing down…lest we too run out of steam and set ourselves up for sickness, burnout, blowup, or moral failure (common consequences of overworking).

If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a direct correlation between the intensity of your energy burn and your need for renewal. You aren’t a machine, as much as you may pretend to be. And heck, even machines need gas, oil, electricity, etc.

Jesus understood the importance of energy management. Amidst his active and demanding ministry, he often withdrew to lonely places for prayer (Luke 5:16). He modeled a lifestyle of surge, retreat, repeat. Do we?

I’ll be honest. It’s easy for me to justify doing just “one more thing” in the name of productivity. After all, there’s always more to be done.

But it doesn’t take long to reach the point of diminishing returns. And then I find myself wishing I had taken that opportunity to refuel.

So, let me ask – what does a healthy rhythm of work and rest look like for you? How well are you managing the relationship between your energy burn and your energy return? Are you taking care of your body, soul, and emotions as you navigate the intensity of life?

Remember the hummingbird this week and get to the nectar when you need it.

3 thoughts on “What We Can Learn From The Hummingbird”

  1. Maybe that brief 3 minute “just-sitting-on-the-wire” hummingbird repose is equal to one 8 hour human retreat experience?! Thanks Dave for the work/life balance reminder.


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