When I was growing up in the woods of Northern New England, one of my favorite books was The Seagull: Rediscovering What Matters. It’s a slim volume disguised as an etiquette book from the early 1900s. On the surface, it’s about how to behave in polite society. But dig deeper and you find some surprisingly subversive ideas about faith, contentment, and heaven. The book is written entirely from the point of view of a seagull named Elijah Judd who has been assigned to observe human behavior and report back on what he observes. This may sound weird, but Elijah Judd has become one of my most-referenced fictional characters. He’s inspired many essays on my personal blog (many of which have been reposted on other websites), scripture journaling pages in my Bible, and now this listicle on why we need more Elijah Judd in our lives.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to remind us to stop and observe.
When I first noticed Elijah Judd’s voice creeping into my writing, I was puzzled. Why was I suddenly writing about a seagull? Then I realized that he had become my stand-in for the part of me that is drawn to the periphery. I’m the kind of person who often finds herself drawn outside the story, watching the main characters from the sidelines. I’m the person who has always been more interested in the details of a scene than what the main characters are doing. We all have a tendency to get caught up in the main action and then, several chapters later, realize we’ve missed a key moment.
I’m drawn to the moment just before a big thing happens, to the conversation just after an important conversation has ended, to the small moment that will come to represent the bigger picture. We all need a little bit of Elijah Judd in our lives, to stop and observe what’s around us before we miss the most important parts of our own story.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to keep us grounded.
One of the traits of a seagull is that they are incredibly grounded. They’re incredibly earthy creatures who are content to eat what’s readily in front of them without chasing after some illusory dream. They aren’t dissatisfied with their lot in life so much as they’re satisfied with what they have. In other words, they are the polar opposite of us humans who are always reaching for something more. We strive to improve our station in life, our looks, our social status, and our general level of success.
We strive to be more than we are, to excel above and beyond our current state. We literally cannot sit still. We have to keep moving, keep climbing, keep growing, and keep improving. We have to keep our heads down, eyes averted from the satisfying view of the here and now and focus on the fanciful future that is just over the horizon. We forget to appreciate what is right in front of us, to sit in the satisfaction of our accomplishments, and to take pleasure in the simple things in life. We forget to sit still, content in the moment, and appreciate how good we have it.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to model contentment.
Like I said, seagulls don’t chase after anything more than what they have in their present state. They don’t wish for a more attractive mate, more attractive offspring, more attractive neighbors, more attractive food, more attractive anything. They’re just happy with what they’ve got. They have no desire to improve on their inherent nature. They do not wish to be something other than a seagull.
They’re completely satisfied with who they are. Now, you could argue that they’re just dumb birds who don’t know any better, but there’s something to be said for contentment. There’s something to be said for being satisfied with what you have. There’s something to be said for not wishing for better things, not wishing for different things, but being happy with what you’ve got. There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you are content with where you are in life, that you are happy with what you’ve got.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to remind us that we are not the point of life.
Seagulls don’t care about anything outside their little world; they don’t think about anything outside the food and the water and the sand and the rocks around them. They’re completely self-focused creatures with no desire to change anything outside their immediate habitat. And that’s completely fine. It’s what they’re supposed to do and what they’re supposed to be, but it’s also completely fine to be more than that. Just because you’re content with your life doesn’t mean you can’t do something more. Just because you are satisfied with your station in life doesn’t mean you can’t use your influence to change things for the better. Just because you are content with your job doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for better working conditions for your colleagues.
Just because you are satisfied with the neighborhood you live in doesn’t mean you can’t petition for better traffic control. Just because you are happy with your marriage doesn’t mean you can’t still strive for better communication. Just because you are content with your health doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for better medical research. Just because you are satisfied with your social status doesn’t mean you can’t help others improve theirs. Just because you are happy with what you have doesn’t mean you can’t be more.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to help us see what’s worth caring about.
As I’ve said, seagulls don’t care about anything outside their little world, so they’re not a great example of seeing what’s worth caring about. In fact, they’re a great example of what we can’t see intellectually. We can’t see what’s worth caring about intellectually because that’s not how we make decisions. We make decisions emotionally.
We make decisions from our hearts instead of our mind. And that’s why we need more Elijah Judd in our lives. We need to see what’s worth caring about through eyes that are not clouded by our intellect but are focused on what we feel. Our emotions are what drives us to do something. We have to have a clear picture of what’s worth caring about before we can care about it. We have to have a clear picture of what’s worth fighting for before we can fight for it. We have to know what’s worth living for before we can live.
We need more Elijah Judd in our lives to help us see what’s worth fighting for.
Like I’ve said, we need to see what’s worth fighting for before we can fight for it. We can’t just go around punching at every injustice we see. We can’t just go around spouting off about every issue we care about. We can’t just go around doing battle with every evil that comes our way. We need to know where to fight and we need to know why we’re fighting. We need to know what is worth our time and effort. We need to know what is worth our blood, sweat, and tears. We need to know what is worth our lives. We need to know what is worth our deaths. And that’s where Elijah Judd comes in. Beyond the basic needs of food, water, and shelter, he’ll show us where to focus our attention and why. He’ll show us what’s worth fighting for
How does Elijah Judd make ends meet?
Are Wynonna Judd Cactus Moser actually wedded?
Who is Elijah Judd father?
How much is the Judds worth?
Who is the most extravagant Judd?
How old is Elijah Judd?
How did Naomi pass judgment on die?
Are The Judds broke?
Where does the Judd family reside?