On one of the beautiful afternoons last week I was siting on my patio, and I heard the delicate buzz of a humming bird. I was not expecting that noise, so it was slightly startling; as I looked to find the little bird, my movement so startled the bird it flew off, making my only glimpse a blurred speck as it moved along on its adventure and search for food.
It made me think about the humming bird; they are fascinating creatures! I know that if I were asked to describe the bird, I would start by talking about their movement, the long beak to suck the nectar, the small body and so on. Interestingly, I do not think I would mention the sound. Though I recognized the hum, I know the visual understanding of the humming bird was my primary understanding.
This is unfortunate, or was, in that I did not really take the time to fully understand the bird that was before me. However, because I could not see the bird made me hear the bird in a new way. For the first time, the hum was not a buzz or some background white noise of nature, but it was like a song. Its musical quality was calming yet inspiring. Though I did not catch a good glimpse of the bird, I know my understanding of the humming bird as a species will forever be changed, and much fuller.
Part of our human tendency is to try and understand the world we are in based on the knowledge that we have. Being a visual species, we rely on what we can see to be the basis for how we interpret the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to faith, what we see is never the whole picture of what God is really doing in this world.
The Bible teaches us over and over that what we see often deceives us. This is a recurring theme in the Pauline letters. It is not that what we see is wrong, rather, it is that what we see is so incomplete that our understandings are often wrong because we rely on what our eyes tell us rather than understanding the whole picture.
It is like this: we can agree that the sky is blue, right? Well, that is not necessarily the case; yes, we see blue when we look to the sky, but the blue color is really a figment of the way our minds process the white light that comes from the sun (seehttp://spaceplace.nasa.gov/blue-sky/). So, while what we see to be blue is blue, that is only part of the story of the sky’s color. When we look beyond the question of color, we then begin to ask more important questions about what is going on up there that we cannot see.
When it comes to our faith, we have to look at everything: what we see with our eyes, understand with our minds, what we feel, what we hear, and so on and so on weighing everything equally. If we let one sense dominate over another, our understanding of faith becomes skewed. While this may work in the short term, what we often find is that the incompleteness of our understanding of God often leads to feeling empty and lost because we are unable to fathom how God can be present when we cannot see Him in His fullness.
As people of faith, one of our basic responsibilities is to be open and listening for God. This is how we form deeper relationships with God as well as come to understand who we are as His children. Unfortunately, too often we get to a place in our faith where we think that we have come to understand in fullness all that God is and we stop asking more questions, leaving us with only a small glimpse of what God fully is.
This morning as I looked out my window I saw another little brown humming bird. I listened as I closed my eyes again to its song. I realized that the bird had become so much more to me now that I saw it in this new way. I could not help but think also about how much more God has become to me every time I allow myself to see Him more fully.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen