Summer heat, haze of humidity presses down. I am sitting on the porch swing. It is August, and I have escaped to get a break from the children, from the craziness going inside the house. I settle in with a good read, or so I hope. And occasionally, I look up from my book to gaze down at the blue of the water, at the river traffic. Sailboats, kayaks, speedboats, catamarans. It appears somewhat peaceful out there. While the veranda is still only a scream away from the hubbub inside our home.
As I am reading, a blur appears before my eyes. An apparition. It comes directly between my eyes as if to attack me while I peacefully recline. In an instant, I recognize it as a hummingbird. It comes close enough to my face that I can feel the beating of its wings. All seventy-five beats per second from what I have read. It remains suspended before me, a blur of feathers, wings and motion. And then it moves to the side of my head, toward my ear, as if to feed.
I wear a bright fuschia t-shirt, comfy and well-worn. And to this small creature, I appear to be food. A source of nourishment. I am flower, provider of nectar-life to a hummingbird. For a brief second, creature and human are transfixed with one another. A meeting of a supernatural kind occurs. And I am left spell bound.
All for the life and wonder- indeed the miracle, that is a tiny hummingbird.
Life. Such a vague, abstract concept. For many years I have wondered when my ‘real-life’ will begin. When the dreams I had as a child will be realized in a final, ultimate sort of life plan. When the exciting life I envisioned for myself will kick in and set into motion everything I have ever dreamed my time here on earth might be, unfolding in some kind of providential way. Like in the movies. Or in a good book. Or as I see it happening in some people’s lives- famous or otherwise.
And sometimes I think this: maybe there is an ultimate plan that God has for me which will soon begin- a plan to be a change-maker, a difference. To make history. To be part of something bigger. Anything bigger and better than this- my ordinary, everyday life. Lived in the hum-drum of work, after-school activities and housework. Lived in the often monotonous hamster-wheel of duty, responsibility and commitment. Seriously. I dream of more than this. And if we all were honest, we do have dreams, some bigger than others. But dreams nonetheless. And there is a little part inside us all that dreams or imagines that someday- one day, those dreams will be realized in a climatic fashion. As can be the case.
But what of life that plods along, never to become that ultimate plan of realization? Is that life lived up to its utmost potential? Is it life well lived? Is there always an ultimate plan awaiting us all?
Or is everyday life itself the plan.
Some online reflections written by friends and family this week have given me pause for thoughtful deliberation of my own. On the subject of life. Or Life. Or is that LIFE. With ‘life’, being that which is lived behind closed doors- in private, ‘Life’ being that which is lived in public and ‘LIFE’, which I would submit is all-encompassing. LIFE in its entirety- the quiet moments of obscurity to those very larger than life moments of recognition and acknowledgment.
Do we live our life as the public persona or the private self? Or do we live equally as both? Is the life we live in the day-to-day enough to carry our dreams or do we dare dream of more than this? Why is thinking about life so important anyway? If the public life is going well and the private life is not, have we still a claim to have lived well? What is more important- the relationships we hold closest to our heart, but which bring us the most pain and trial; or are the most important relationships those that are held at a distance, shared with colleagues and acquaintances that might support us in our biggest dreams, but which are not forced to deal with the inner struggles?
And where is God in all of this- this stuff of mortals, time and distance?
I am uncertain of what lies beyond today. Beyond this moment I am in. Right now. If there is an ultimate plan, it must be this: to be all that I can be right now. To live large in this moment. To be honest and true in my writing. To be kind and fair to my children. To be patient and wise with my students. To be compassionate and grace-filled with my relationships. To make a difference in the lives of all whom I cross paths. Today. For today is all I can be held accountable for. And if today has been well-lived, then my ultimate life plan will have been realized.
For being the best I can be, giving the most I can give, offering the most I can offer as I live moment by moment is all I can do right now. I can only live what I have been given. And the life I have been given for today is enough.
Who can put a value on a life? Does life lived out quietly bear the weight of significance equally with that of the life lived visibly? Who can tell which is worth more to the Father? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26, NIV)
A hummingbird is among the smallest of birds. A vulnerable bird, with a relatively short life span. One could say as birds go, it is rather insignificant. Beautiful, but rather non-consequential as feathered creatures go. And yet a chance encounter with a hummingbird on a mid-summer day was a pivotal moment for me. Reminding me time and time again that life is not always about the biggest moments. It is more about the beautiful moments lived out in the simplicity of everyday life.
And it is about the extraordinary miracles experienced in the otherwise ordinary here and now.