Momma Bird

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Amidst my two weeks of travel, a bird has set up its nest right outside our back door. Perched atop the lamp post, with bits of mulch and sticks and even a little recycling, Momma Bird sits atop her eggs waiting for their lives to come to be.

I can’t help but wonder if Momma Bird regrets her choice of nest location. For at least five times a day, the door opens right by those fragile little ones in order to send our beagle out back to use the bathroom dig holes.

It’s not only vulnerable.  It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s almost painful to know how much life’s security and future hangs in the balance every time.

Any slight movement of the mulch, any door slamming, any loud yelling of our dog’s name might knock it to the ground where all that has been invested will be no more.

My oldest is becoming more a young man every day. There are traits that are transforming and shifting daily and there are those that seem to be the ones that might stick no matter the life-stage. Maybe it’s premature to assume so, but I value the time to anticipate what is to come so that I might parent him the best that I can.

He is remarkably imaginative and curious, careful and sensitive, faithful to that which he loves and attentive to the world’s wonders. His feelings are expansive and consuming. When he is happy, he exudes a contagious joy and excitement. When he is sad, droopiness seems to weigh his shoulders to the ground and his frown follows suit. When he is mad, a burst of smoke comes out his ears and anger pours out his eyes as he flails his arms. I spend many days living out Romans 12…being sad with him when he’s sad, comforting him when he’s afraid, and rejoicing with him when he’s fully alive.

I see fear in his eyes when he approaches something new and I cringe. I cringe because I have just enough life experience to have caught onto the truth that life will be full of moments when fear will consume. I anticipate the moments when he will be too afraid to go out onto the soccer field, too nervous to go into the classroom, and too timid to confront a friend who has hurt his feelings.

I see it coming and I brace myself.

On a stop along the way back home from vacation, we stopped for food at a place with a play-space. The boys burst into the playground while Drew went to get the food. The only parent in the playground, I watched my youngest struggle to get up the steps. When I couldn’t get to him because of its structure, I watched as a young boy a few months older than him approached him, blocked his entryway into the rest of the playground, and proceeded to yell at him and swat his arms towards his chest. I watched helpless. I couldn’t reach him. I called for my oldest to come in to help. The young boy next went after my oldest, with words and arms and body meant to assert dominance over him on the little playground.

The moment seemed to go on forever. I was paralyzed and unable to get them, uselessly telling the young boy that we do not hit. It was a microcosm of the next phases of parenthood – sending my boys out into the world, aware of the world into which I’m sending them. It reminded me of the fact that I may try to raise my boys to be gentle and kind, comfortable with who they are and ready to celebrate another, but there will be times when another puts up their fists and spits out words no matter the kind gesture offered in welcome.

I understand the parental desire to shield and protect. I understand the desire to hide them under my wing so that I might keep them close and safe from harm. And yet, should I do so, will they ever realize that they have wings of their own?

Perhaps I am Momma Bird who has set up her nest in what seems like the wrong location.

It’s not only vulnerable.  It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s almost painful to know how much life’s security and future hangs in the balance every time.

“Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.” – Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

As one who follows Jesus and seeks to be near to God, I recognize that the fear that I feel must not be the framework that determines this life of mine. So I process through my fear so that it does not reign and remain. I let myself feel the fear in my gut and I let it linger. But I refuse to let it be my destination. God refuses to let fear rule me.

In time, I feel fear release its grip. I remember that liberation is not just something for large systems of oppression but also for me in my daily life.  It comes in the moments where I watch my oldest’s courage emerge again after a moment when he’s been afraid. It comes in the moments where I am reminded that moments of sadness do not kill us but can be the seeds of something new. It comes in the moments when I am remember that I follow a God of resurrection and redemption. It comes from mowing the grass and redeeming that backyard of mine, sweeping up the leftover mulch from the nest, being careful with our back door, and podcasts with stories like Zak Ebrahim whose life experience as being bullied allowed him to move from being the son of a terrorist to an advocate to peace or Shaka Senghor’s time in prison that allowed him to become a person who imagines a better future for all people no matter the choices made in the past.

Life lived in trust of the Holy Parent is not only vulnerable. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s almost painful to know how much life’s security and future hangs in the balance every time. And yet in the valley through which I walk, goodness and mercy keeps me brave enough to keep going and humble enough to trust the Holy Parent who guides the way.

For even these moments, I pause and give thanks for this life… for though it is risky, imagine all that our boys will see when they find that the wings they’ve been given are meant to carry them out to taste and see creation’s beauty and wonder far beyond anything they can imagine perched atop the lamppost in the gathered mulch.

Momma Bird, I’m rooting for you.

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