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Light(en) Up

For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. ~ John 3:16-17

Woodcocks are the Goldilocks of the bird world. They are very particular about when they are active. If it is too light, they wait. If it is too dark, they stop. When the light is just right, they dance. After a plaintive “peent,” the male takes off, spiraling upward on whirring wings. At the top of the climb he spreads wings stiff and teeters down creating a series of whistles as the wind rushes through his wingtips. Another “peent” after landing is his version of “ta da!” If you find one displaying male, you will have found all of them since they gather in one place to court all the neighborhood females at once.

While we have adapted to function in various amounts of light, the structure of our eyes and our heavy reliance on sight means that we are a diurnal species, that is, one that functions primarily during the day. There are many nocturnal creatures whose night vision far exceeds ours. Woodcocks are among those creatures described as crepuscular, they live their best lives in the twilight of dusk and dawn. Translated to disposition, they represent a comfort with shades of gray, preferring neither certainty of black or white. Perhaps they could teach us valuable lessons to overcome our tendency toward divisive dualism. Translated to spirituality, they might represent the mystics among us, more comfortable with mystery than doctrine, and quick to reject dogma.

When we fail to acknowledge the limits of our abilities, we are prone to make certainties out of that which we barely perceive, such as turning the fear of things that go bump in the night into definite spirits intending us harm. We also tend to limit our understanding to the familiar and settled. We might look at a verse like John 3:16 and read into it an exclusivity. Consider how toxic the application of that particular verse has become. Rather than seeing the glorious grace of God’s love that we would be offered hope through the gift of God’s beloved, so many see only the possibility of transactional salvation gone wrong through somehow not believing correctly. And if there is any doubt about God’s intent to save everyone, not just the doctrinally-pure, John helpfully added the next verse clarifying that God’s intent was to save not to condemn.

Maybe at those moments when we demand more light to help us understand, it is we who need to lighten up. Clearly, it is a good idea to act more like the Woodcocks whose instincts lead them through what is dimly perceived to dance in the dusk.

Prayer: World-Lover, rekindle the spark you implanted in us that we might light up and not burn down. Amen.


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