It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m super grumpy. It has been a long week, full of meetings, sermon-writing, and garden work. I haven’t been sleeping well, either, which makes the fatigue more acute. Which, of course, means it’s been the perfect week to take out all my brothers’ files to review their list of infractions and add new ones (or repeats of the old ones) to my churning miasma of resentment. And, of course, we had to stand in the glaring sun for our Christmas picture. Now when everyone examines it, all they’ll see is my squinting eyes. Because, of course, I’m the one they’re looking for in the photo.
So, when I pull out of the Monastery parking lot 20 minutes later than I’d intended, I’m primed for a fight. At the end of the driveway there are three SUVs. On the grass nearby I see three people surrounding a large wooden crate with a few holes in it. I’m immediately suspicious. Who are these people, and what are they doing–without permission–at my monastery?
I roll down my window, and because I’m the Guestmaster and also Southern (when it’s convenient), I ask in a voice much more neutral than my insides, “hey, what’s going on here?” One of the men turns to me with a big smile on his face and says, “we’re about to release a bald eagle.”
Just like that, I’m immediately present in the moment. No fatigue. No resentments. No suspicion. I get out of the car and walk over to them. They tell me that someone found a bald eagle at the Black Creek nature preserve just north of us. She’d eaten a mouse that had been poisoned, and they took her in to help her recover. Now they’re releasing her back into the wild. They’d picked our place because it’s right on the river and has a large open space where they could let her out to soar.
I pull out my camera, because even though I’m too cool to take pictures of everything, I know I have to get this on film. The other man reaches down and gently lifts the lid on the box. An enormous huddle of brown feathers leaps up and out of the crate. She’s all power and muscle and somehow also so light. She’s off and away. The whole thing takes 10 seconds. And I’m amazed and giddy with the wonder of it all.
(video here: https://fb.watch/gfvZiaoLmm/)
There is so much space outside my head and my heart. It’s all just there, waiting, patient, and wild. Why, then do I spend so much time walking around with my head down, staring at my list of grudges and counting off the ways I could have done a better job running the world, if only I’d been given the opportunity?
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes its nest on high? Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
I’ve always found God’s response to Job’s suffering to be a bit of a cop-out. But the gift of that beautiful, soaring bird at the nadir of my grumpy fatigue was just that sort of response. I’m hardly Job, of course. And yet, standing five feet away from the wildness of the world God has made, nothing from my week mattered. I became small in that moment, in the best possible way. I no longer needed to be separate.
It feels amazing to be a part of this world God has made. And it feels acutely miserable to stand outside of it all with that list of infractions. And still, so often there I am, glasses perched on the edge of my nose, eyes narrowed in judgment, pen scratching away on my little list of grievances. And all the time there are eagles, and maples, and the laughter of my brothers jostling one another as I squint into the sun. If I have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a mouth to give praise. If, indeed.