Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Hummingbird and the Hawk

The rising sun peeks through my hermitage window calling me to come out and play, to put down my beloved books and come read Saint Augustine’s ‘Book of Nature’. So I close my Psalter and journal and lace up my old, beat-up Hoka One One running shoes for a morning jog along the backroads and turnrows of the farming community I call home. At this stage in life my running pace is not much faster than a walk but I’m okay with this since it opens up space for me to enjoy God’s creation as I train my mind and body to be ready to answer ‘yes’ when the Spirit calls me off on another adventure. About a mile into the run I noticed a hawk soaring on the early morning thermals above the ripening cornfields. This sight brings a smile to my face and the memory of a time long ago when the Holy Spirit taught me an important life lesson from another soaring hawk.

I was with one of our first volunteer teams serving in the remote mountain villages of western Honduras. God was just beginning to adumbrate this ministry which, later this week, we named Extreme Missionary Adventures.  We had just hiked over Cerro Las Minas, the highest peak in Honduras, stopping for a water break in a clutch of trees with a priceless view of the verdant valley spread before us. I dropped my backpack, sat against a tall pine, and took in the sight before me as I drained another Nalgene of cool mountain stream water. The sylvan mountainside, the fertile valley of lush cornfields and banana plantations, the sparkling river luminous in the sun, the quaint little town of Belen Gaulcho with its jumble of brightly colored houses and red tile roofs, the ubiquitous white Catholic Church prominent on the town square. And then I noticed a ‘Honduran hawk’ soaring high above the valley. Spellbound, I watched for many long minutes envying his freedom and his view. I half-jokingly asked the Lord, “Why can’t I fly like that and see this view from so high above?” as I daydreamed of parasailing over the valley. The Spirit, seizing the teaching opportunity, quickly responded, “This bird can only soar because he was willing to let go of the security of the tree branch. If you want to soar to the heights I have for you, you too must let go of the things you are holding on to for security.” This lesson has stuck with me over the years helping me find the courage to follow wherever Christ leads, helping me to say ‘yes’ to the many adventures that have made my life so abundant.

These happy thoughts put a little spring in my step so I kick up the pace a notch. At about mile three I notice a hummingbird flitting around some morning glories on the ditch bank. This too brings a smile as I watch her bounce from one flower to the next with hardly a pause.  I love watching hummingbirds but they rarely stay in one place long enough to get a good look. She stays in my mind as I plod on down the road thinking about the difference between the hummingbird and the hawk. I’ve read that hummingbirds use 90% of their energy just seeking more food. That the frantic pace of their existence keeps them just hours from starvation at all times. That they have to go into torpor, a hibernation like state, nightly to conserve energy.

Contrasting this I think of the hawk floating effortlessly on the powerful, invisible winds of God. He appeared calm and graceful circling high above waiting for God to provide his breakfast. Hawks exhibit a monk-like patience in everything that they do. It’s common in our area to see hawks sitting on power lines for hours just watching life go by, patiently observing the world around them, silently waiting for God to provide a meal. He heeds His creator’s instructions better than I, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

If we’re not careful the world can lure us into living hummingbird lives, into frantically expending our lives chasing after more and more, into letting our eyes and our minds flit from smart phone to tablet to computer screen as we drift into torpor. Like the hummingbird many of these things we chase after seem essential to life but, perhaps, if we slowed our pace we would not require as much just to live. Perhaps we would find an unexpected peace and calm if we emulated the hawk’s slower more thoughtful life. Perhaps if we stopped our striving we would find that God revels in supplying our need, that he takes pleasure in our desire to simply sit in his presence, that we might quite possibly accomplish more by doing less.

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