Last week I found myself on one of Vancouver’s Sky Trains, waiting for a delay in service to pass, watching some birds through the window. Not for the first time, I wondered what it would be like to be a bird. What does it feel like to ascend the sky like a mountain, powerfully pushing through the air as the great birds, the raptors, do? When a little bird tumbles over thermals and through puffs of wind, when she drops suddenly towards the ground, does her tiny heart leap into her throat? Are the birds having fun, I have to wonder?
All my life—or at least for as long as I can remember—I have wanted to be a bird. I have wanted to break the chains of gravity and climb out of the everyday world of houses and trees and streets. That thought, therefore, occurred to me again as I sat watching two tiny sparrows play in the wind, bouncing through the air, seemingly out of control. I thought then, also not for the first time, that maybe in the world-to-come—the renewed world that God will complete, fulfill, and in which God will dwell amongst us—maybe in that world we will have the opportunity to share the joys of the birds.
But then, I thought, perhaps it is wrong of me to think so. Perhaps it is only a sign of the brokenness of my nature (and the nature of others who have shared this dream) to long to have wings, to take flight, as the birds do. Birds are made for flight and human beings are not, so surely we shouldn’t dream of doing what is not in our nature, but rather we should accept our lot and reach only as high as our hands can stretch.A warmth of feeling crept over me then: no, I thought, that’s wrong. We were made to dream of flight. We were meant to look at the birds and wonder, “What if?” For thousands of years, human beings imagined what it would be like to take to the skies, and on one frosty morning in December of 1903, we did, and now not even the sky is the limit.
Our ability to imagine things otherwise—to look at what is and imagine what is not—is a part of our God-given creativity. God gave us minds to puzzle out the mysteries of the universe, imaginations to look beyond what is immediately obvious to our senses, emotions such as joy, and almost limitless curiosity. It could be argued that our God-given curiosity is what got us into trouble in the first place! But the One who makes all things new, who renews all things, who redeems all things, works also in our imaginations, our creativity, our science.
So I will not be ashamed to imagine what it is like to be a bird, and I will thank God that our world is so full of wonder and diversity, the signs of the very Creativity of which my own is only a pale shadow.