On an early morning walk this week, a great white heron flew in front of me. I felt the flush of wind from its powerful wingspan—it was that close. I might be misidentifying this magnificent creature, but I do know it was not a color-morphed junior—the thing was gigantic and entirely white, no black legs or darkened bill. I suppose I should have been startled by its sudden presence, but I stood in awe as it glided across my path at eye level and then soared skyward. I could have been envious of the bird for its freedom and fearless flight. Instead, I wondered curiously what the view was like up there over the treelined marsh in this Sweetwater valley of Tennessee.
I grew up mostly (or mostly grew up, haha) on Fidalgo Island in Washington State. I used to hike to a couple special spots just to watch the heron(s) in complete harmony with earth, water, and sky. I’d sit for hours as one would move in stately silence, fish with purposeful patience, pass from complete focused stillness to the majesty of commanding aviation in a blink. Strong birds. Confident loners, I somehow took comfort in watching them. Never before have I seen a white one, though, so this unexpected recent encounter was extra special.
There’s an inclination I have to read symbolism in everything, see a spiritual sign beyond the physical, spot an allegory. Probably stems from my Judeo-Christian background, and this nature is quite strong in me. My sister/BFF says that I walk between two worlds. Because it’s true, my mind and heart were heavy and I was seeking God that morning. Though my feet were firmly plodding forward on the path, my cognizance was somewhere else completely. So now I ask what, exactly, is the Lord saying to me? Herons in Hebrew culture represent long-suffering, wisdom, and protection, are forbidden to be hunted or eaten. Early Christians believed herons shed red tears when under stress and their emblem came to represent Jesus’ agony of sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet somehow there seems to be more here, something else I’m not perceiving.
“The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”—Romans 8:26
Or maybe there wasn’t meaning in that encounter at all. Maybe that moment was just meaningful in that the heron was neat to look at and nothing else hinges there. Maybe I read too much into things. Except, as the week continues to churn, images of the white heron paint my mind in pure flashes and I’m inspired and hope-filled and utter thanks to the Lord. Regardless and always, God is sensitive, compassionate, merciful, and good. I trust him. And I certainly appreciate that he created that standout heron.
Now back to my chips-n-salsa which I also appreciate. You see? Two worlds, lol.
A problematic social issue, a unit called to respond.
A man struggles to right his wrong.
“If I had said ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ when they asked me to do this thing, then maybe I would have turned out a hero instead of what I’ve become.
We were trained, hired with the promise of a good wage, to take care of a problem, to get things under control. As a man, I needed to succeed for myself, for my family living in a cycle of poverty in the sertão, the backlands. The earnings proved excellent, and far outweighed the promises made by the controlling peasant guerrillas. But the other part of it… If I knew then what I know now…
I can’t live with myself…
I can’t live.
If I could take it back. Everything I’ve done--
Ach, who could do such things? And if one could, then who would forgive such things?”
This is the story of one man's dark path to redemption.
Black Sheep, you are different not undesirable; misunderstood not disreputable. Honor is a power of the heart not a reflection of surroundings or surrounding attitudes. Your heart is strong. You do not fail, you climb. Failure is for those who do not move their hooves. Your hardy little even-toed hooves go, go, go! You ascend at your own pace. If you trip, you bleat, but you try again. Resilience. Among the scrutinizing eyes of your compeers I feel your pain, and yet I applaud—for there is no shame in being who you are or what God made you. No embarrassment, only delight. No shame, only honest pride. Some look at you and see deviation from the flock. I see straightforwardness.
Black Sheep, you are beautiful, and as you should be.
Dorian Gray, led by his vanity into insatiable lust for pleasure, much later recognizes how depraved he had become. Pleasure did not his happiness make, so he goes to a priest and begs for help in a 2009 movie remake of the classic. The priest, unfamiliar with the depth of this man’s sin, in turn, gives him a trained response. In Dorian’s profound misery the priest’s pat answer wasn’t enough, because his soul was rotten to the core. He’d done despicable things. Help. Me. Gray beseeched. The priest glanced away, lacking the words to bring solace to a devastated individual desperate for a chance at good.
“Speak, man! Do something,” I retorted to the out-of-touch priest. I implored that if I have ear to a broken soul bleeding sorrows, those words already burning in my heart would trickle from my tongue and propel a dark character to light.
Not for the sensitive viewer, this particular film is full of unsavory, hard to
swallow scenes. But I must say that the pivotal point of Dorian Gray would not have been as powerful had I not witnessed them. It fed my compassion for the desperate seeker.