I saw a rat along the fence line beneath the ivy, this morning. There was a squeak and a commotion in the ivy and all the birds fled the feeder. As I wondered whether a rat would attack a live bird, I say one emerge from the ivy, slink a few feet along the fence and disappear back into the ivy.
I do not know what happened. Maybe the rat simply slipped and fell. Maybe there was a territorial dispute in the ivy. But I was troubled by the fear that the rat had gone after one of the finches or other small birds feasting on the thistle seed. Wikipedia tried to reassure me that though they might eat a carcass, they were unlikely to attack a bird.
The world is not kind. We have wonderful sentiments about the beauty of nature – and there is incredible beauty – but there is also fear. The garden has been lost to us. The creatures fear us and we fear them. The strong feast on the weak. When my cat brought me a mole and dropped it on the doorstep, I should have thought more about what was happening in the yard. When it dropped a sparrow, I was upset. When I caught it stalking a cardinal, I never let it outside again. My cat was well fed, but she was wired to stalk and kill.
We look out across a meadow and see a peaceful scene: meandering stream, grass waving in the breeze, a fence line of trees pointing to the heavens. Perhaps mountains line the horizon. But hidden in that grass is a struggle for survival. What we so calmly called the food chain in 8thgrade science is a trail of death. The fact that it is ‘natural’ doesn’t make it holy.
The jealousies, fears and ambitions that governed the playground in 6thgrade were also “natural”, but they were not holy. The quest for power in Washington might be natural, but it is not holy. The tribalism that courses through human veins might be natural, but it is not holy. Revenge might be natural, but it is not holy.
Curiosity, compassion, friendship, affection – these too are natural and they partake of the holy. Communication, collaboration, compromise – these, too, are holy. Sacrifice, courage, commitment. Faith, hope, and love. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
“Finally, beloved,” writes Paul to the Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (4:8)
Through the author of Colossians, the one who took off his robes to wash feet urges us to put on the new self:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (3:12-15)
Perhaps we are wired to slink along the fence line hoping for a bird, but we are invited to be born from above, to breathe the breath of Jesus, to live as children of light, to be holy as God is holy.
Photos by dkbonde