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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Screen

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The door opened, and out she went.

As usual, Chloe, the little red-coated Golden Retriever, burst out of the screen door like a rocket to the moon. She does this every morning, on her first trip out.

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I imagine her excitement is less about doing “business” and more about chasing after the burrowing bunnies and the trespassing squirrels that often occupy the yard. Her eagerness often echoes in the slamming of the screen door, like a shot of a gun that sends any and all wildlife scurrying up trees and under fences.

Today though, it all happened so fast.

As the door flung open and Chloe barreled through, puffs of gray rose up from the ground like ash from a fire. Despite often being flighty, Chloe caught sight of this and returned to me excitedly. In slow motion, the little robin who’s bosom hadn’t turned copper orange yet, flew to the open door and for dear life clung to the screen, her wings flapping furiously, desperate to remove herself from danger.

As she rose, Chloe lunged, chomping—tasting only the delicious humidity of a warm spring morning. Immediately I grabbed my golden girl, letting the screen door slam, leaving the tiny bird in the sanctuary of my garage, hanging delicately onto the screen.

I grabbed my gloves and crept ever so slowly towards this tiny bird. As I treaded softly toward her, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what grace looks like.

Not my actions, per se: I don’t mean that grace was (only) reaching out and grabbing this terrified robin. As I stood, I thought that maybe grace comes from both sides of the relationship: what is equally significant about grace is our response to God’s goodness and love.

When I opened the door, her eyes darted quickly back and forth. Her grasp tightened as I saw her little claws hook tightly around the screen. Terrified and uneasy about the possibility of freedom, she remained paralyzed in this moment of possibility.

Gently, I placed my gloved hand around her back, keeping her wings closed, and her claws away from my skin.

 

Still, as I pulled, she wouldn’t let go.

Afraid to hurt her, I took a step back and simply held out my hand just inches from her perch. If I couldn’t force her off the door, the least I could do was ensure her safety. The decision to detach from the screen had to be hers: if she fell, I would be there to pick her up. My hope, though, was that she would fly off on her own.

Instead, she fluttered from the screen and sat on my index finger. For what must have been 3 seconds, I held in my hand the lightest form of life I had seen this spring. It was both intimidating and holy to handle such a tiny life with such care.

As soon as I started to walk out of the garage, she realized her opportunity, springing free from my finger and flying into the tree. She had found the courage to go and fly again.

Perhaps, grace is just this: that God comes to us, no matter the season, no matter the circumstance, no matter what screen we have flown ourselves into and now cling to in our desperation. What we learn in scripture is that God is a God who loves us, forgive us, and longs passionately to come and be with us.

It almost seems too good to be true. But perhaps, this isn’t because we doubt God—but instead because we doubt ourselves.

I leave you with these words which I have shared before but that I hope continue to have renewed meaning each time you hear them:

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” ~Frederick Buechner

[Adam Quine, Pastor First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]

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