"Be like the bird
That, pausing in her flight
Awhile on boughs too slight,
Feels them give way
Beneath her and yet sings,
Knowing that she hath wings."
I have been doing some mid-winter decluttering. In a bag of letters I found this poem written on a 3 x 5 index card. Though the writer's name was not on the card, I knew exactly who had written it and when. At some point of a dark and difficult time in my life, one of the dear saints of our church had tucked this poem into a card or letter she had sent me. I remember receiving several such 'love' notes from her during this time. The notes were extremely helpful to me, not only for their beautiful sentiments, but because I knew that they were also accompanied by her prayers. I knew this woman's prayer patterns well and I knew that in the early morning hours she had other index cards placed near her Bible and her comfortable chair. Those cards held the names of people for whom she had been praying for days, weeks, even years. When I would see her, she would often ask me about someone, recounting their illness or difficulties, asking me how things were going for them. A few years ago, when she passed on from this world, I remember feeling that one of the great 'pray-ers' in my life, in the life of our church, was lost to us. I did not know who would take up such a mantel.
This poem holds so many metaphors for our fragile, human lives, doesn't it? Don't we all feel, at times, as if the boughs on which we rest are too slight? I know I certainly do. There are those times when the weight of what we carry threatens to break the very ground on which we stand. When that bough gives way, we often feel as if we are going to fall with a harsh thud. And yet, if we allow ourselves to rest into the assurance of who we truly are, God's beloved ones, we can find the memory of our wings. This praying saint sent me this poem to guide my memory. In finding this card, I am once again reminded of her wisdom…..and her encouragement of my own.
If we allow ourselves, we can probably conjure up the names of people who are our 'holy reminders'. Those people who, with a word, a call, a note, a nod, help us to remember the fullness of who we are. These are the people, I believe, who offer us unconditional love, though we may not always define it in this way. These are the people who nearly always see the best in us and, even when they don't, they honor the relationship, not with judgment, but with a knowing glance. Sometimes these people are our parents or siblings. Most often they are people who have decided, for whatever reason, that they are our earth-traveling companions who love us just the way we are. What a gift!
The reciprocity of this kind of relationship is that we offer that same kindness, gentleness, generosity to another. Because we have been given the gift of these people who help us see the sacred nature of our living, we can make that same offering. And so the questions become: In your life, who has helped you see the best in yourself? Who has encouraged you to see yourself as the image of God? And: To whom can you return the favor?
I am grateful to Elizabeth who reminded me of my wings, my ability to fly even as the odds weighed me down. I am grateful that she empowered me to pay it forward.
On this Valentine's Day weekend, what better gift can we offer than to send the gift of unconditional love? Enjoy!