Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Your face, Adonai, will I seek"

My first post on this blog was about the sighting of a hawk in my back yard, an immature red shouldered hawk from about 30 feet away, consuming a sparrow it had just killed. The hawk returned a few days later, but was frightened away by the arrival of Newlin, my life partner.

Now hawk sightings in the sky over our house are not uncommon. Usually they are red tailed hawks, which are adapting nicely, thank you very much, to urban life, and sharpies (sharp shinned hawks). The over abundance of sparrows in our yard makes for good feeding.

However, it is not so common to see a northern goshawk. In fact, I've only seen goshawks once in my life, on a birding trip, in Millington, Michigan on May 25th, 1990. There was a nest in Arthur Latham Memorial Park there and our guide knew where to find it. We observed two baby goshawks, and, briefly, the parents. Not a good idea to hang around a long time, the guide said. To be attacked from behind by an angry goshawk parent is like being hit in the back of the head with a bowling ball.

Well, since the sightings of the red shouldered hawk I have seen a northern goshawk twice. The first time it was flying over the house liesurely enough for me to be certain it was not a really large cooper's hawk (like a sharp shinned but larger). But five days ago, it perched in the tall tree in a neighbor's back yard, overlooking mine. I saw it fly in. I saw it perch. And it sat there for several minutes.

Newlin and I were in the car. We watched for some time. Then I slowly got out of the car to be able to see it without the windshield in the way. I thought, maybe it will stay there long enough for me to get the field glasses and really look at it, gaze on it, close up. But no. It let me stand there for a few moments, then, taking its own good time, it lifted off and I was able to watch it fly - beat, beat, glide - over and behind the houses, and down Ohio toward Main St.

I used the first sighting of the red shouldered hawk as the framework for a sermon. The sermon wasn't about hawks. In fact it was about wishing I could gaze on Jesus in the same way I gazed on that hawk, and on my failure to follow my own preaching by seeing Jesus in the faces of the people around me. But that was a challenging sermon, so the people heard, instead, that the sermon was about the hawk.

And that was not a bad thing. It gave the people an opportunity to share their own joyous and wondrous experiences of birds. In fact, they were commenting even weeks later. One such person told me about an article in the local newspaper about a goshawk hanging around the Route 7 connector. That was when I knew for certain that really large accipiter I'd seen in the air (accipiters are the hawk family in which the sharpies, coopers and goshawks belong) was a goshawk. The tree sighting last week clinched it. (These things are important in the birding world, a world in which originally the only trustworthy identifications were from those birds one harvested by killing and collecting.)

For a very long time now I have been on a quest; I am seeking the face of God. I desire to see God face to face. I have a few bones to pick with God, about which I'll write later. I go through earnest times of prayer, hoping to conjur up the diety and have it give an account of its failures with humankind. I also go through times when I don't feel like praying, or even just plain refuse to pray, but I still desire, in those times, for God to come out of hiding and give an account.

But as I write this, and recall that earlier sermon "about the hawk", I am reminded that I see God when I see hawks. God's presence is recalled to me in every hawk sighting. There is no accounting, except the life and power and freedom of those great birds, and their cousins the eagles. Maybe that's enough. Maybe that's all the glimpse of God I'm ever going to get. I may fail miserably in my desire to be able to see Jesus in the faces of the people I serve, and in the grocery store check out when I am frustrated by delays, and in the car when I am consumed by road rage.

But in this one thing I do not fail: I see the face of God in hawks, and the more hawks I see, the more I see of, and know, God.

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