Summer mornings, I walk the gravel line between the drone of highway traffic and the twitter of birds in the pasture. A road that knows few cars and fewer houses, its ditches prosper rabbits and bees and the birds which lay down my morning soundtrack. I rarely notice the animals when I walk. Because I’m prone to tumble, I tend to keep my eyes fixed on at the ever-changing place where my feet meet the road. It’s hard to watch with my eyes glued to the ground.
Even so, one morning I noticed a movement in the ditch. A bird flew straight up the front of the fence barrier that separates our rural road from the local four-lane. She fluttered up, past row after row of squares, squares not wide enough for her wingspan. After passing the top one, she squeezed underneath the sagging barbed wire strung across the top and continued her ascent on the other side.
She could have avoided that precarious squeeze. There was plenty of space on the country side for her to rise into the air, space which looked safer, smarter, and better. In just a few inches she could have crossed over without wedging herself between the wires, if only she had looked up instead of straight ahead.
Because I tend to anthropomorphize the natural world, projecting onto it qualities which belong to humans, I wondered what she was thinking. Why would she make that squeeze when she would have been free to fly wherever she wanted had she waited just a second longer? Why would she take what looked like a dangerous way when safety waited just inches above? Was she trying to challenge herself?
A bird’s life doesn’t require additional challenge. It revolves around survival. Find food. Avoid danger. Evade predators.
It looked to me that maybe she flew just the way I walked, eyes fixed just ahead, just far enough to see the next thing, oblivious to all the rest.
Like the bird, I’ve sometimes got my eye open for the first out. In marriage, in motherhood, and even in own my mind, I’m tempted to look for the easiest way through even though I know that in everything that matters there is no easy way and the first out is almost always a bad idea.
The bird made it through the barbs and on to freedom. She avoided the hazardous wires. She survived.
That was enough for her.
But you and I were intended for more than a song bird’s life, crafted for more than mere survival. We were made to sing, but when our vision is focused on finding the first out, the song can get lost–if ever it is sung at all.
A bird’s song is its song. It can’t sing a new tune. A cardinal sounds like a cardinal, a chickadee like a chickadee.
We, however, can sing most any tune we want. Often the most beautiful melodies are hard-won, springing from waiting places, dark places, places of weariness and discouragement that try the soul, the ones where the temptation to take the first out is strong.
But we weren’t made for escape. We were made for something more, to be drawn out by the God who loves us and to sing his song. And sometimes, it’s in those hard places that we discover the melody.
Grown up life brings with it more hard places than easy ones. What is the nature of your place today? What is your song?