I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?
You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I’ve seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head, will you
ever, possibly, see one.
–Mary Oliver, “The World I Live In”, from Felicity
I heard the telltale buzz and rather absentmindedly reached for my phone, its sound having interrupted a crucial moment in Panther football (aren’t they all?) in Season 3 of Friday Night Lights.
“Will you pray for me?” the text message said, and I immediately closed up Netflix, sat up straight on the couch, and texted back, “Of course I will. I’ll even pray via text, if it helps you to see the words I’m praying.”
“Sure,” came the response.
And so I did, the words offering up my friend and her heartache to the light and hope of this Universe pouring faster from my heart than I could put them to iPhone screen. I didn’t think. I didn’t craft sentences. I just typed, knowing that if she’d asked, which is not an easy thing for her, it was important and there was no time for perfect phrasing or watertight theology.
If you’ve been reading what I write, or know me much at all, you know that wild geese are a sort of talisman for me. Celtic spirituality holds that wild geese are a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and though many people argue with me about this, given how loud and messy and obnoxious these animals can be, I maintain that there is something deeply holy about them. I see them often where I live, and every time, my heart smiles.
Last night, as I text-prayed for my friend, about halfway through my urgent typing, I heard them outside. Geese. Obviously flying overhead and obviously talking to one another and obviously a rather large flock of them. I wanted to run outside, because, if you’re lucky, when they fly low and fast at night, like I imagined they were doing, and the moon or the city lights are just right, you can sometimes see the flash of white of their belly feathers. Otherwise they are just gray shadows streaming by.
I did not run outside. But I did stop and listen. And I breathed a prayer of thanks. Because they were there. They showed up. At an important moment.
“They’re honking hallelujahs for you,” I typed.
Look, you can roll your eyes at me if you want. Wonder at my insistence on how wild creatures could possibly be a sign of something more, something glorious. But you won’t change my mind. There’s a whole lot that can’t be proven or measured or qualified in this life. And so whenever I can, whenever I’ve left my heart open enough to the possibility of goodness and mercy right around the corner, I choose, again and again, to believe in that which doesn’t make much sense. In that which cannot be proven.
Because if you don’t believe that the holy is out there, somewhere, even if seemingly beyond grasp or possibility…well, “only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”
For wild geese flying through the night, for the most gorgeous sunset on my commute home yesterday, for the laughter shared with another trusted colleague and friend…for these things, and so much else, when I’ve got eyes to see it, I’m thankful. Because it all reminds me…all is not entirely broken or undone after all.