I kill spiders. I acknowledge the global benefit of the arachnid/ insect economy, but they can transact their business outside of my house, thank you very much. This morning I nearly parlayed my skills when I discovered Mothra inside one of the living room windows. Its body was easily as big as my thumb, and its wings beat mercilessly against the glass.
I knew this would be no simple squish and scrape.
As I approached with my weapon of choice, a Sanuk flip flop, its monster wings stilled. Its head turned to look towards me. I closed my eyes, raised my arm, and … wait. Did that moth have a beak? Are moths shiny? DO MOTHS HAVE CLAWS? I’ve slain some intimidating spiders, but this was beyond my purview. That was when I saw the red spot on its neck, no bigger than a pencil eraser.
A ruby throated hummingbird had somehow become trapped against the window, could see the garden on the other side, and figured the only way to it was through it.
As I gently cupped my hands against the glass, around the bird, I assumed he would injure himself in his panic. Instead, the bird became very, very still in my hand cave. He looked up with his needle beak and shiny eyes, revealing his telltale throat. My husband was able to snap a few cell phone photos before I walked into the garden.
Honestly, the bird’s stillness suggested he was badly injured. I suddenly felt one of the sad pangs that come so often now, squeezing my sternum. I thought of Kai, how he loved hummingbirds, how as a little boy he was thrilled to see the same bird come every day, at the same time, on the same route. “Mr. Fred,” I whispered, using the name Kai gave to his hummingbird, “please be OK.” As I slowly opened my hands to the sunlight, Mr. Fred shot upwards, flitting from tree to tree. The bird had flirted with death by flip flop. Now he triumphantly circled the garden and then darted off into the cloudless San Diego sky.
My husband and I have different interpretations of the rescue/escape. He imagined the bird’s visit was a spiritual encounter of sorts, a reminder that Kai is flying a little higher. I liked that thought, because it would mean that in a way, I had held Kai one more time, and then released him into beautiful freedom.
I perceived it as a spiritual message, too, although I saw myself as the hummingbird. In this new year, I’ve created a schedule for myself that requires the speed and agility of Mr. Fred. Bible study! Bible class! Catechist training! Catechist conference! Blogging! Volunteering at church! Volunteer teaching! And the latest addition to my flight plan: applying to graduate school to start a Master’s in Theology, wings murmuring at 60 beats a second.
See? See how busy I am? How holy I am? How hard I’m working to grow my faith after such tragedy? God must be so pleased with his faithful servant. My whole life for Him, through Him, because of Him. See?
What Mr. Fred revealed this morning is that God does see. He sees my furiously beating wings, circling my route, never pausing, never lighting anywhere for long.
God sees what I secretly hope, which is that grief can’t hit a moving target.
God sees my husband, asking me to slow down, to eat better, to take care of myself, and to maybe spend a little time with him? He sees my son watching Netflix and eating Doritos because I’m preoccupied with homework. He sees my daughter, exhausted from starting swim team, and me refusing to cut her slack because I just finished the carpool spreadsheet and have it all worked out and the calendar is full, full of pretty colors and Important Things. He sees me only half-bashfully accepting praise for my “brave” and “courageous” walk.
God sees. He sees me beating my wings up against the glass, sure that if I just bang hard enough and long enough I will get to the other side. I am terrified of being still, of relinquishing control, of slowing down enough that grief will catch up. If I can just keep moving then one day I will wake up happy again, a whole and accomplished woman.
God sees my fear. He knows my family is waiting patiently for my stillness. He knows that my wings can only beat for so long of their own volition, and that eventually, I will have to rest. I’m asking him for the courage not to keep moving, but to be still. Mr. Fred already knows that after the stillness, there is freedom. Or maybe it wasn’t Mr. Fred. Maybe it was Kai today, telling me the same thing.