Sunday, January 6, 2013


Recently, I've looked up to see countless birds in the sky. When they fly away, these birds leave behind a bit of a mess. But, believe it or not, they also leave behind a great example of how to follow Christ. They teach us to recognize our earthly restlessness and strive toward union with a caring God who, even in our darkest hours, will never stop calling us to Him.

We're not too different from migrating birds. Most birds fly south every winter. They have done so throughout history and will continue to do so for ages to come. Somehow they know that they must migrate to find a suitable climate and food supply. Nobody makes them leave; they just know within that they must go. They know that migration is best for them.

When I relate these birds to humans, the first thing I think of is a famous quote from St. Augustine: "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You."

Capt. Dale Black, a plane crash survivor, had the amazing opportunity to rest with God and live to tell the tale. While traveling to heaven during a coma, Black said, "a strong sense of belonging filled my heart; I never wanted to leave. Somehow I knew I was made for this place and this place was made for me. Never had I felt so 'right' anywhere. For the first time in my life, I was completely 'whole'" (from his book Flight to Heaven).

Black realized that we are restless throughout all of our earthly lives. Our hearts are always drawn by some force to join Christ, as if He is a giant magnet. Some people realize this and fly to Christ like paperclips, while others do not. They resist His invitation. Those that are unaware of this restlessness either do not know God and the peace He brings or they choose to not know God. Such people are like birds who decide to stay behind and face the winter while their other bird buddies fly south. Sure, they don't have to endure the difficult journey south, but in the end, they are the ones who face the greatest suffering. Only when the frost comes will they realize the futility of their decision.

Those that do recognize their restlessness, however, strive toward a heavenly goal. They understand that earth cannot bring true satisfaction. They know in their hearts that we were never intended to stay put and face earth's harsh conditions forever; we were made for heaven. These people see that only after death, when we are resting with the Lord, will our hearts be content.  But they also see that we all must endure a lifetime of preparation if we wish to achieve this final goal. Each moment on earth becomes part of a journey. Every second these restless souls are flapping their wings, moving closer and closer to the final destination, a place where we will finally feel "whole."

But no one is perfect. Our wings grow tired and we falter on this quest. We turn away and get distracted.  The journey is difficult. Its trials make the final reward even sweeter, but they also can easily discourage us from continuing onward to Christ.

If Jesus is a magnet who calls us to migrate to Him, it is difficult for us to turn away from Him. To turn away, we must make a conscious effort to resist God's invitation to peace. Christ is always there calling us to Him. We are the ones who choose to turn away. Just because we decide to resist Jesus's pull, it does not mean He has stopped pulling. When we turn away, we think that God has failed to hear our prayers simply because we have convinced ourselves He is not listening. We think He does not care. We no longer feel the magnet. Our hearts are still restless, but we just fail to see the relief that only God provides. Like a bird who strays from its flock, we feel alone. We may not know where we are headed or perhaps we no longer even desire to flock to Christ. It is at times like this that we must trust God. We must remember that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Nothing else can satisfy us. Nothing else can bring us true happiness. And whether we "feel" Him or not, we must recognize that He is there. He is still calling us, even when we resist, even when we feel completely alone and absolutely lost during our journey. He will set our paths straight and lead us once again toward peace.

God alone can remind us of our purpose. God alone can pick us up, know us, and love us more than we could ever love another. God is the only One that could ever bring our hearts peace.

When we stray from the Lord, we resist the innate restlessness of our hearts. When we live each day for the Lord, we fly closer and closer to joining Him in paradise.

"For never can that heart be satisfied which seeks anything but God....He alone is unchangeable, He alone can fill the vast abyss of my desires" (St. Therese of Lisieux).

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