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Imparting Wisdom




Though the Word came to its own realm, the Word’s own people didn’t accept it. ~ John 1:11


Recently, I led a bird walk for a group of sixth-grader campers. It was early in their week together, so the fraught group dynamics of a gathering of tweens was definitely an obstacle to sharing the knowledge I wanted to share, let alone imparting wisdom. To their credit, they were quiet and relatively attentive. Did I mention they were quiet? They kept their cards close to the vest, only adding to my questioning of my effectiveness. It didn’t help that the migrants are far north now and the local breeders are intentionally clandestine. When birds have young ones to protect, the last thing they want to do is attract attention, which is terribly inconsiderate of then when humans are trying to learn how to find and identify them.


The obstacles were not unexpected and adding to the challenge was that this was church camp, so there was an expectation of something spiritual to boot. Obviously, I find birding to be a spiritual practice, but how was I going to pass that along to these young people? In the middle of the walk, in the middle of the woods, we sat and meditated. I’ve led this practice before. The idea is to hear the birdsong that you had not been noticing previously. This sort of deep listening expands awareness, and creates a sense of space. As you listen, you not only notice more sounds, but you begin to realize that some of them are quite distant. Exploring this thought leaves you simultaneously feeling small as well as part of this vast tapestry. How well I instilled this gift in the group remains to be seen. Actually, I came to realize that that wasn’t my job. Robert Hunter was correct, the story teller’s job is to shed light, not to master.


When we view the Incarnation theologically, we are tempted to lean toward the “fully divine” side of Christ’s nature, i.e. God took on flesh. But Jesus was very much fully human and must have know incredible frustration trying to get us to learn what he taught. Or perhaps it was the divine nature that kept him going, lovingly offering knowledge, realizing that it is up to the student to turn knowledge into wisdom.


At the debriefing at the end of the walk, it was obvious that some of the information I shared had stuck. One of them was still pondering where Chimney Swifts nested before chimneys, an incidental comment I had made on the walk. The bottom line is that everything that you have to offer is meant to be offered with no strings attached. You never know what will stick.


Prayer: Great Weaver, forgive us when we try to tell you where we belong in the tapestry. Remind us that we only have to be the unique thread you made each of us to be. Amen.


(Hollow, standing dead trees are where Chimney Swifts nested before humans created similar structures. Did you really think I’d leave you guessing?)

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