Before the light splits apart the sky or steals soft through the clouds, revealing their lines, the only sound we hear is birdsong.
I fold my legs up in the chair, drawing near to God, and it’s as though He wraps around me and breathes, Listen. In the darkness, hidden from view, the birds sing so loudly that their chirping captivates, so loudly that their vibrance registers as thought. They fill the silence. There is nothing else but their song. It wipes away every other sound. I hear what must be at least fifty voices, some echoing, some uniquely dissonant. I search the darkness, trying to see the lines of grass blade and trees and fence, wondering if I can catch sight of these tiny, hidden forms. Yet unseen and without any particular harmony, their strong voices marry in beautiful tone, as though they believe it depends on them to call forth the day. Their song fills empty spaces, or at least, gives shape to Creation lost in the last of the night. Their song speaks of freedom.
I quickly give up on seeing the birds, understanding that their collective invisibility makes them bold. Together, they are hidden, massively undefined. The size of each one individually could never really match the sound of them together, and when at last I see one, tiny and elegantly perched on the fence post, that one will not be singing anymore. Somehow I’m sure that their collective expression is Fuller even than they. For a few moments, Kevin and I just sit, listening, held by their voices. We open up scripture and let Word take dancing shape in their freedom song, this song that calls forth Light. Soon, Riley will appear with her computer and read us the weather. She will search for us, carrying a tumbler of ice water in one hand, seeing us with her sleepy eyes, talking with a voice unused these last hours. So much has been restored in the darkness, in the still hours before waking. More has been resurrected than we see in the early morning as light obliterates the empty sky and reveals the newborn art of day.
Riley will sit across from us chomping ice, and we will strain our ears not to let distraction interrupt our focus on this beauty, this shapeless and yet deeply visible serenade. And then, one by one, the birds will fall silent and disappear into the trees or take flight. I don’t know where they go. They’re gone before I see the lot of them, and this is how it’s meant to be, that I only know they exist because of the powerful sound they make together in the darkness. So, for a few reverent moments, we are altogether lost in the concert. Their song speaks of freedom. It speaks to us of truer things.
This is the testimony of their song, the freedom notes flung far and wide, the formidable melody of these masterfully sculpted birds:
Ours is a song celebrating freedom, and we should sing it loudly, as though the coming of the morning depends entirely on the blending of our discordant voices. Our collective invisibility should make us bold. In the darkness of lost and uncertain times, in the last of the night, we are altogether hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3), and massively undefined. The testimony of each one of us individually could never match the sound of our singing together, the beautiful marriage of our rare tones, some echoing, some uniquely dissonant. Alone and entirely visible, we each forget how to sing. Truly, our collective expression is Fuller than we, because it is the fullness of He. This is how it’s meant to be. No one should know that we exist except for the powerful sound we make together in the darkness, the sound of singing that fills the empty spaces. Our song is the testimony to all that has resurrected in these still hours, while yet we strain to make out shape and form and color. We sing of the coming Dawn, of Light that shatters the sky to reveal the masterful art of all things new, all things redeemed. This, then, is the timeless relevance of the Body, not our individual preferences or forms or differences of opinion, but the bold and vibrant Truth over which we lose our”selves” in collective worship. Together, we become the deeply visible shape of our living and risen King. The sound of our testimony should rise, flung wide, stronger even than distractions set against it.
So, may we live to be united and unseen, yet powerfully, beautifully heard.
I started writing this post on Wednesday, only to discover on Thursday that the graceful and prolific American Poet Laureate Maya Angelou has now ascended. Perhaps this week the birds owe at least some of their volume to the celebration of her flight. While here, she touched this place with beauty, and now unseen, her voice remains, singing of freedom.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
~from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou