Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will set up three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” ~ Matthew 17:5-7
Yesterday I had a day that I could commit to chasing birds. I knew that there was a Western Tanager visiting a feeder in Blue Hill and the Steller’s Sea-Eagle was being seen again in Georgetown. Since they were each an hour’s drive from home, but in different directions, I knew I could choose one or the other. I had seen the eagle last winter and while I’ve seen Western Tanagers before, it would be knew to my list for Maine. Since the tanager has been present since November and had already survived weather that should have killed it, I banked on it being available another day and chased the eagle. I got there just after it had moved from the east side of the bridge to the west. It was probably a half-mile away, but I got good looks in my scope and a blurry documenting photo. The choice really paid off when three other eagles circled in from of where the Sea-Eagle was. They were all immature birds, two were Bald Eagles, but the third was a Golden Eagle, not the mega-rarity that the Steller’s is, but rare enough to be a species I wouldn’t have counted on adding to my Maine list.
My reflection on the day got me thinking about, of all things, fear. Bird-watching rarely involves risks that one would call fear-inducing. That is apart from the newly popular acronym FOMO, fear of missing out. When a rare bird is reported, the FOMO scale skyrockets. Even when the identification is in doubt or the wild origin of the bird is in question, the sage advice is always to see the bird first and ask questions later. Waiting will only increase the fear that the bird will fly and you will be left wishing you had gone sooner. Some fear immobilizes, but some fear motivates. Fear is definitely beneficial when it causes you to look both ways before crossing the street, but if left unchecked it might keep you from ever seeing the other side of the road. On the other hand FOMO might fuel the adventure that you are called to. The disciples heard this from Jesus at the Transfiguration. At first they wanted to stay on the mountain to soak in the glory, then they were literally floored in awe at God’s presence. Then Jesus gently prodded them to get up and not be afraid. He knew that gift of that moment for them was to take that vision with them down into the valley where they were going to need it.
Prayer: Awesome One, fuel us with just enough fear of missing out on what you have for us that we will walk even in the valley of the shadow of death without fear because you go there with us. Amen.