It was dusk. Quandary peak was shadowed in the gloaming against a fading violet sky as light followed the descent of a sun already set.
I curled up on the couch, my eyes closed in prayerful meditation. Through the door open to the deck I heard the sleepy chirp of a single bird. I looked in his direction, but could not locate him amongst the dark pine boughs.
I had been thinking of the verses of Matthew 6 and the column I’d write this week and this singular bird reminded me that God cares for us even when we are alone. Even one solitary voice in the wilderness is noticed by God, and cared for.
Those lucky enough to live here year-round know that beneath the bustling tourist destination is the heart of a small town where we each find our niche, our community of friends.
Despite these open arms there will still be moments when we find ourselves alone or lonely. And this is when we need to recall the small voice of the solitary bird singing before nightfall. Just as I heard his call and made note of it, so too God hears our solitary voice. But unlike my inability to locate the bird, God knows exactly where we are and what we need.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
As heartfelt as these words are, they can be a challenge to embrace when we feel alone or abandoned. Yet that is exactly when we need most to emulate the solitary bird singing in the night. But how are we meant to keep singing when we are alone in the dark? How are we to keep trusting that all will be well in an uncertain future?
Soren Kierkegaard says that in these moments we are to emulate the bird’s unwavering courage, “that to travel is thus to let go of what is certain in order to grasp what is uncertain, the obedient bird nonetheless immediately sets forth on the journey; in simple fashion and with the help of unconditional obedience, it understands only one thing, but understands it unconditionally: that now is the moment, unconditionally.” (Kierkegaard, The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air)
What Kierkegaard calls unconditional obedience, I call ‘trust’ and ‘surrender’, because if we are to be obedient to God’s will for our lives, we must trust that God cares for us and wants only the best for us. And if we trust God in this way, then we will surrender our will to God’s will. Not only is this difficult, it goes against our human nature to determine our fate.
The mental image that pops into my mind at this thought is the surrender we must experience when we float on our back, arms outstretched, in the ocean. If we fight or struggle, we will instantly sink. But if we remain calm, slow our breathing, relax our muscles, and allow the salty water to keep us buoyant above the water’s edge, we will float. We will be held by no effort of our own. We will be safe.
To be clear, Kierkegaard’s call for obedience, or my call for trust and surrender, are not for passive inactivity. As Kierkegaard writes, “When the bird comes into contact with the harshness of this life, when it is tried with difficulties and opposition, when, every morning, day after day, it finds that its nest has been disturbed: every day, the obedient bird begins its work all over again with the same joy and meticulousness it displayed the first time.”
When we meet difficulties, we are called to follow the bird’s example. To persevere, to re-build our broken nest, to continue our job hunt, to endure our physical therapy, to send another email to the loved one who has shut us out. We keep moving forward, step by step, working to our best, but simultaneously trusting and surrendering the outcome into God’s hands.
With this in mind, I will be like the bird. I continue to look for a new home to rent in Breckenridge. Please say a prayer for me, or let me know if you have a nest for this bird.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of “A Map of Heaven.” She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at www.Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths This week’s column is part two in a series on Jesus’ parable of the Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air.