Friday, May 13, 2011


A female summer tanager, an elegant little bird with deep golden plumage and bright black eyes, flew up and perched just outside the living room window. She began visiting us yesterday - flew from one window to the next, all around the house, as if she were beckoning us to open the window and let her inside.

At first, we thought she was flying to the windows to dine on the spiders who had built their webs there. No, that wasn't it. Then, we thought maybe she saw something inside the house that captured her attention. No, that didn't seem to be it, either. Finally, we decided she was having some kind of rather unpleasant conversation with her own reflection.

At a time when most birds are busy building nests and feeding babies, this beautiful tanager wasted her entire day preoccupied with the bird in the window. Not a real bird, mind you - but an image, an illusion. A reflection in the glass.

The little golden bird got me to thinking about how much time, thought, and energy I waste every single day preoccupied with a very similar illusion: the "me" in my mind's eye. How do I perceive myself? How do I want others to perceive me? How do I present myself to others? What do other people think about how I look? the things I say? how I spend my time?

Like the tanager, I live in a real world, filled with real opportunities for meaningful work and honest interaction with others. But how much of each day do I spend thinking about, worrying about the "other" me - the me in the eyes of the people I meet? The me I want to be? The me I wish I were? These ghost images, these reflections in a window, are unworthy distractions from a more noble calling.

When I first started wearing glasses (back when my arms shrank to an unaccommodating length), I found it very difficult to focus. A strange flashing, dancing "floater" appeared in my line of vision. Every time I moved my eyes, this speck moved, too, always staying between my eyes and the person or the print or the object I was viewing. Over and over again, I removed the glasses, inspected them for dirt or scratches, cleaned them thoroughly - only to find the floater still bouncing around when I replaced the glasses on my face. Nearly drove me CRAZY.

I finally discovered the problem. The "floater" was the reflection of my own pupils in the back side of my lenses. It took a while, but I learned to look past the reflection, to look beyond the image of my own eyes, to what lay beyond. And now? What about the reflection that once made me nauseous and unable to concentrate? I don't even see the reflection at all.

Our little tanager has a short vision that prevents her from seeing through the window into the world beyond the glass. Her life has shrunk to the size and depth of a vague, flickering image. She sees only herself.

I pray that God gives me vision to see further.

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