Dear Friends in Christ,
I was walking along the boat docks taking pictures recently, when my stroll was interrupted by a loud pop coming from behind me. I was startled because up until that point, I had not noticed any souls around - it was late on a Sunday afternoon. My first thought was that the noise sounded like the breaking of a glass bottle, which was cause for minor alarm. I turned, but the only movement I could see - other than a seagull - was a car driving slowly towards me. Had they driven over some glass? Maybe someone threw something out the window? Should I look for cover? The car was far enough away that it didn’t seem like a threat. I kept walking. Later, in a different part of the docks, I heard another loud pop, this time from in front of me. I felt another jolt of adrenaline. But again there was no one there . . . except for another seagull.
It turns out the pop I heard was the sound of a shell smacking the pavement. The gull had dropped it from on high in order to use the force of the shell striking the ground to cause it to break open and reveal its contents. The gull quickly devoured its treat and flew off.
The whole encounter got me thinking about how we perceive the world around us. To me, the sounds triggered a mild concern. To someone else that same pop might have triggered a past trauma—a bottle broken in anger or the sound of ammunition fired from a weapon—causing a sense of panic, and with it the desire to fight or flee. And the person driving in the car probably didn’t hear a thing.
I’m still contemplating the experience, trying to discern what God intended me to hear and receive. One thought was a sense of wonderment at the resourcefulness of the seagulls and praise for the beauty of God’s handiwork that we see in the created order (Genesis 1:20-23, the fifth day of creation)—particularly from birds that many see as a nuisance. A second was a feeling of gratitude for the Lord watching out for me that day (Psalm 23:4), that my initial concern was all for naught. A third feeling was to pray for people and communities that have been traumatized by violence, for whom the words of Psalm 88—incline your ear to hear my cry . . . for my soul is full of troubles—are a constant prayer.
As we continue our journey through Lent, may we hear the Lord speaking to us in and through the sounds of our daily lives. May we be inspired to give thanks and praise for our Creator. May we sense the Spirit’s guiding our steps and attune our lives to follow God’s path. May our hearts be drawn outward to help bear the burdens of those who live in fear, just as Christ has on the cross.