I have been working on a list of things I know to be true no matter what my feelings might otherwise dictate. It is an interesting list I think, and one that will continue to grow. For example, the first item on the list is that all storms pass, and rough waters eventually become calm. I know in my heart that is true even though being in the middle of one of life’s storms often feels interminable and frightening. Another is that a pleasant demeanor is always worth more than you feel it costs you. And yet another: most unkindness is rooted in and motivated by fear.
But the one that captures my imagination today is the truth that you should look up when the rabbit runs.“
Here at the bluff, the rabbits inhabit the margins between dune grass and forest edge. They are a sniffly little band, out in the dark devouring my carefully cultivated vegetation when there’s an entire forest of food at their disposal. But the forest hides the bobcat, and the bobcat has babies to feed.
Out in the openness of the dune, the rabbit is most vulnerable to overhead threats. The red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks silently prowl the perimeter, then brashly dive right over the open space. Any living thing small enough to claw and suffocate-chipmunk, mouse, squirrel, bird, rabbit- is in their sights. Just the other day, a rabbit was hunkered under the bird feeder nosing around for spare seed when one of the resident bald eagles soared past. Though the eagle was not hunting, the sight and shadow of the large wings sent the rabbit panicking into cover of spruce.
Look up when the rabbit runs.”
The same holds true in our own lives, when surrounding threats make the heart skip a beat, when the instinct to run and hide overrules any other thought. Yet most of our threats don’t require flight, but head-on confrontation; they need a deep, thoughtful look, because they are rarely overt, but rather insidious, unobserved, often ignored. What do I mean? I mean we should think about the things that soar unnoticed overhead, things that threaten our well-being, things like too much time spent on frivolities like scrolling numbly through social media. Or too much raunchy music or humor or television that infiltrates our spirit with ideas that are not noble, or worthy of our brain power. Or the surprising anger that blackly rises up out of our hearts when another driver annoys us. Or the vitriol we spew when someone with an opposing viewpoint speaks out.
These are threats to our life precisely because we never recognize them until they have their claws around us, squeezing and suffocating the life right out of us. They cause us to sow discord, to angrily participate in cynical or enraged dispute rather than welcoming a civil discussion. We mock others instead of honoring the very humanity we cherish in ourselves. Why can’t we instead concentrate on things that are noble and of good repute? What is so hard about keeping the ugly and sinister at bay while embracing whatever is lovely, and upright, admirable, and praiseworthy? I wish I knew.
What I do know for certain is that God’s creation in nature is balm to the suffocating soul. This is where wisdom teaches patient and quiet observation, and where we will learn and observe all kinds of things that are worthy of praise. The opossum may not be comely, may even remind us of a rat, but it voraciously eats the ticks that make us and our pets sick. That scary little spider dines on roaches and mosquitos-the best pest control money can’t buy. The blue jay may mock and scold, but it also blares out a danger warning like a tornado siren.
Yes, the truth is that wisdom and insight are treasures worth seeking, and that the ant and bee are good mentors.”
Stop listening to the culture’s banalities. God’s nature is almost always more beautiful than human nature. Maybe a walk in the rain is a good idea. Maybe getting down to observe what’s going on in the grass will yield a bit of wisdom. Maybe setting aside your phone for a few hours is a worthwhile rebellion. Maybe you can learn the ways of the rabbit, to look up when it runs. You might just glimpse a magnificent eagle.
Thanks for reading along. Photo credit: Pixaby 051123
J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.