Acoss the slow, sunlit mornings of this lovely Spring I have officed in the garden. There I write, read and pray. ‘Lord, teach us what is ours to do’. Well this is mine, I sense, while these days last. The garden, simply gift.
As human noise and activity has withdrawn, much else is drawing nearer and bolder. Around me the variety and confidence of the natural world is exhilarating. Feeding, nesting, singing, exploring, carelessly indifferent to the unseen threat that keeps us shut in and distant. A baby greenfinch takes its first sips of water in the bird bath. A black bird is performing a frenzied dance in the vegetable patch. With every breeze apple blossom dusts the world with confetti. Hectic and playful life on the wing
clutters the sky above.
‘Free as a bird’ the saying goes. And from our gravity-tethered existence it all looks so effortless. But I recall when I first read of the paradox of flight. The only reason a bird can fly is because its wings encounter resistance. Flying can only happen under pressure. This freedom requires a direct engagement with all that constrains it.
Flight is a work of contradiction.
So it is with us. Human growing and flourishing is the same. This business of living, like believing, rarely happens in ideal circumstances. It meets us as a contradiction and requires a steady work of resistance and reconciling with what we suppose most stymies and constrains us. Our freedom too then, is the task of engaging faithfully and obediently with what defies us, what holds us down.
Where is the resistance? Our stories will be as varied as the challenges they pose. And none are for minimising in what they ask of us. It may be those times and circumstance where we find our choices blocked, our desires thwarted, keeping the life we want to have, or know we need, out of our reach. The walls that surround us. The doors that stay closed. But it will also be the challenge to widen our embrace of life and all that is good, to take the risk of loving, to let go, reach out and trust beyond the familiar.
Freedom is always a way of contradiction.
And so to our today. ‘Life is what happens while you are making other plans’, the saying goes. Well one thing is certain. No one planned where we now find ourselves. Our growing and flourishing, whatever our circumstances, must happen as we engage with, not avoid, the things that resist us, our intentions, hopes, needs and longings.
Wherever we find ourselves, and at whatever cost, there is no immunity on offer for this strange, contradictory gift of life.
We must reach out and embrace it.
Stretch, open ourselves and lean trustingly into this strange, prevailing present.
‘Look at the birds, free and unfettered … and you count far more than the birds’. (Matt 6.24 The Message).
So who knows – this might take off?
And the truth will set us free.