If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139
The coming dawn chases the stars from the sky as the moon retreats to another hemisphere. The predawn light begins to illuminate the island with a gentle touch. The line of the horizon, so sharp at mid-day is a blurred edge, the ocean bleeds into the sky. For a few moments before the sun takes dominance in the heavens, the world exists in cool pastel colors with softened outlines.
She has no name except in the mind of God.
Throughout the night she roosts in an Australian Pine, just a few hundred yards from where the gentle surf of the Gulf of Mexico meets the sand and the scattered shells of Sanibel Island. She stirs and pulls her long beak from beneath her left-wing. The rhythms of the tides, the moon, stars, and sun are hard-wired into her DNA, she was born to this by divine design, she does not question. She blinks once then twice. Flexing her strong wings she stretches the 7-foot wingspan parallel to the shoreline before pushing her feet against the rough bark of the tree, launching into the air. Wings beating, beating, beating, powerful strokes against the invisible air until she gains the needed altitude.
Then she soars … soars on the wings of the morning.
I stand with my feet planted on the sand. Watching. Earthbound. Heavy. Logically I know I am the higher creature, but I cannot help be envious.
In 1776, Carl Linnaeus gave the brown pelican her binomial name, Pelecanus occidentalis. By conventional standards she is not a thing of beauty. Until the brown pelican matures and its head feathers turn white, she is clothed in a consistent dull brown hue. She is a comical looking bird, with an over-sized bill and stubby body. Her dive into the water to catch fish has all the grace and finesse of a falling rock. She will never be described as elegant or graceful. But she does not compare herself to other birds. The Royal Tern, the Roseate Spoonbill, the Ibis, the Great White Heron, or the Snowy Egret, she does not measure her beauty against theirs. She is comfortable in the knowledge that she is a magnificent creature of divine engineering. Her fall from the sky that we find so comical is designed to impact the water with such force that it stuns the small fish that are her prey. As she plunges into the water, her throat pouch expands to trap the fish, filling with up to 2.6 gallons of water. And oh, can she soar!
I rarely soar, mostly I plod.
Unfortunately as I trudge along, I also compare. My head has the knowledge that by almost any standard, I am blessed beyond measure. Yet I have to constantly guard that envy and discontent do not creep into my heart . I have to constantly resist the messages that my smile should be brighter, my laundry could be whiter and that I really should do something about my thinning hair. As a young teen, I had always hoped I would grow up to look like Mr. Grant. Looking in the mirror now, I see I may have gotten my wish. Unfortunately the Mr. Grant I most closely resemble is Ulysses and not Cary.
Later in the same Psalm, the writer tells us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”
After reading that, how can we doubt that we are not exactly the right height, the right size, the right color with exactly the right features? I think it’s because we are so painfully aware of all the shortcomings of our inward self. We are both perfectly made and born into sin. It is one of the ironies of Christian life, that only by acknowledging our brokenness can we truly accept our Godly perfection.
It is then that we can accept our perfect role in God’s creation.
It is then that we can soar!