Good question, blogpost title! I’ve been meaning to write about the title of this blog for quite some time and now, as I am avoiding packing for a conference that I don’t especially want to attend, I will distract myself by writing about it.
Someone very dear to me once sent me a beautiful card with the following quote:
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”–Rabindranath Tagore
This quote moved me deeply during my first year of college, when I received this card. Experimenting with my new life in college, several hours drive away from my hometown, torn away from my high school relationship and my best friend and family, I experienced a lot of what I have come to call “darkness” or “cloudy times.” Clouds have continued to cross my path and shadow even the best times over the past several years, and in recent months have become (mostly) silent companions.
This quote is important to me for several reasons.
Firstly, I have always identified with birds, because they fly very high and are very graceful, and I have always wanted to conquer my fear of heights by flying far above the Earth and seeing the curve of the Blue Planet’s horizon.
Secondly, I sing. Singing in an early music choir in college has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and the music of Palestrina and Lassus and Schein and Victoria would often pull me out from under a cloud for a couple hours every Monday and Wednesday.
Thirdly, as a person of faith I have been trying to pinpoint what faith is. What is the essence of faith? I usually boil it down to things that I know to be true in my bones. I know that there is a deep feeling of peace and oneness that overcomes me when I paddle a kayak on the smooth glass water in the early morning in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I know that the world is so much bigger and more complex than me when I stand on the shores of Lake Superior. I know that life has more meaning than we generally accord it when I hold someone who is aching and they lean into my body and cry on my shoulder. I know that when I question why I am a Christian and why I am adhering to any kind of organized religion, I always come back to the potlucks in church basements and dancing with balloons with a three-year-old on Easter morning and sharing tea and talking about love with a dear friend. These things bring me back to my quest to be near to the “Great Big Whatever,” when I’ve lost my way, when I’ve lost my joie de vivre, when I’ve lost myself. My community and my environment draw me back into relationship, pushes away the clouds from shadowing my view, and, even more than that, they join me under the clouds, holding me fast.
The bird has many clouds. The bird feels undeserving of love, lost in a maze of “shoulds” and societal norms, torturing itself by measuring itself against its peers who are always more beautiful, more desirable, who sing better and have brighter plumage. The darkness is too dark, and threatens to overcome it.
It is awake in the pre-dawn darkness. It feels the edge of seashell pink before it rises in the eastern sky. It lifts its head in praise and opens its beak, breathing deeply of the warmth of the earth and drinks in the life in the morning dew. It begins to sing, first slowly and deeply, then with reckless abandon. It verily shouts “God, you are SO good,” even through the pain and the heartbreak and ache and hopelessness and even though it cannot see the road ahead because it is shrouded in the mysterious morning fog.
Faith is (to me) anticipation. It is active waiting. It is perseverance towards a new world that is within reach. It is being surrounded by the darkness and knowing the Light is coming. Soon and very soon. Even here. Even now.