While recently visiting communities in our Western Region, many people expressed their thankfulness that large numbers of visitors from the coast had holidayed in the west and were planning to return next year. Unable to travel overseas, or interstate, many Queenslanders have ‘discovered’ that there are remarkable places to visit, interesting people to meet, and exciting things to do in their home state…and, I reckon it’s a great thing!
Usually when I travel out west, I find something within me relaxes and uncurls: the horizons are broad, and under vast star-filled skies it’s easy to feel very little in the scheme of things, and simply wonder at the beauty of it all. There’s a sense of pilgrimage when travelling and a need to be prepared for emergencies because another vehicle may not be seen for hours…and there is a freedom not found in Brisbane during peak hour!
There are slower rhythms to the urgent schedules of metropolitan life and there are frequent opportunities to listen and learn. I’d like to reflect upon an unexpected encounter one morning in that recent trip…that in many ways I’m still processing.
While staying on a sheep property west of Quilpie, I went for a morning walk with the owner, and as we progressed up a dirt road a blue wren suddenly appeared on a fallen tree. It bobbed up and down a few times while looking at us, and then it flashed away, weaving through the gidgee trees. For those who are bird watchers, this was a male splendid fairywren – Malarus splendens. I have seen photos, drawings, and paintings of this bird – particularly in Western Australia – but this was the first time I have ever seen it in the wild and it simply took my breath away.
Against the orange-brown dirt, and the grey-greens of acacia foliage, the blue colour of this bird was startling. It was like a little herald about to announce something important and just as it got your attention it moved away…almost inviting you to follow.
I’ve thought about this often since then and wondered what it could teach me about prayer…and here’s where I’ve landed. If we took this wren as a metaphor for God’s Spirit, and the morning walk as a metaphor for life’s journey, perhaps prayer is the way we keep our eyes open to recognise the presence and activity of God? In some seasons of our life there will be just glimpses enough to keep us going in search of more, while in other seasons we may feel constantly surrounded by blue fairywrens and their song.
I’ve also been wondering if we value God more when there’s just a glimpse of the Holy Spirit and we need to labour for weeks before seeing the Spirit again? When even the promise of another glimpse is enough to give our lives purpose and meaning. What do you think? And, what has been your experience?
My prayer is that the ‘blue fairywren’ of God’s Spirit be clear to each of us often in the coming days and weeks, as we travel the remaining months of this unsettling year. Because God’s Spirit will more than delight us – the Spirit will sustain and shape us, and increasingly enable love to become part of who and how we are in the world. Amen.