See the Sparrow

I probably should have written before now.

I wish I had, if only to get that last post off the top of the page. But my life has been a bluster and I haven’t had the space of mind or the depth of insight to write anything worth your reading it.

Like every time I disappear from blogging, I’ve done my share of traveling since we last met. Four flights and a several hour car trip with a blizzard hot on our tail. (Visit The Analogue for an on-going photo-recap).

Before the last leg of my journey I spent an eight-hour layover at the Denver airport. I like airports much more than I like airplanes, so I didn’t mind the delay. With no special hurry to get my gate, then, I found the most comfortable seat a could with a view out the window toward the horizon, and settled in with my book.

But the place I’d chosen to sit gave me a clear view, down a corridor of windows, of a man. He was wearing . . . what should I call them? Pajamas? Loose fitting pants, much like mine, and a longish coat, much like mine, and a fez, not at all like my hippie-trendy barret. In fact, while my whole outfit had been carefully chosen to allow me to fit in, his had the opposite affect for him, right down to the olive color of his skin (though he hardly had a choice there) and the ampleness of his beard.

A cursory glance around told me I was not the only one who had noticed.

The man was busying himself laying a mat on the floor and settled himself down on it facing . . . uhh . . . East. I didn’t need to look to know that.

And this while the Lady on the PA reminded me every 10 minutes that the Terror Warning was at ORANGE and to please be aware of the heightened security. The people around me shifted nervously.

Half of me wondered if he was really serious; the other half simply admired his religious moxie. Not that I would have chosen that moment to pull the crucifix out of my shirt . . . had I been wearing one.

My mind drifted back to the man I sat next to on the plane to Denver. He was about the age of the man praying, though less bearded. He, like me, was dressed to assimilate and he’d been unusually helpful, genial, gentlemanly. I’d wondered at the time if he was a Christian but the nearest I could come to a sign for it was the wedding ring on his finger.

The contrast between the two men seemed alarming, then. I could not help but wonder if we, as Jesus followers are not remiss in failing to bear a mark for our cause, as Jesus himself bore marks for us—which inspired the ridicule and censure of all, and struck fear into the hearts of many. Should it be a matter of pride for us that the Christians are the ones you can’t pick out of the crowd?

As the fez-man tidied up his mat (and the Terror Warning decreased slightly on the faces of the well meaning Americans around me) something else caught my eye, in the air above my head. A sparrow was trapped inside the terminal. The little creature, apparently unaware of his incarceration, flitted back and forth freely down the causeway and alighted on the chair two down the row from mine. He fluffed up his feathers and pecked at a few crumbs before taking to the air again.

I heard the words as clearly as if someone had spoken them next to me,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

And suddenly I was surrounded not by individual bodies in motion on their way to separate places, plans, and lives, but individual people loved dearly by God—the God to whom every one of us stands out of the crowd. And those marks I was contemplating a moment before weren’t born for Christians but for all of us: Hindu, Muslim, and patriotic anthropophobic alike.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

As I sat there and heard the sparrow twittering away in the rafters, I lamented that we not only see too few sparrows in life, but too few of our fellow human beings.


5 thoughts on “See the Sparrow

  1. You really must post more often, Emily. Your writing is incredibly moving.

    I have been also thinking about the fact that Christians do not usually wear a distinguishing sign and I wondered if that’s good or bad. I really appreciate religions that wear specific clothing or other symbols of their faith. It makes me comfortable to have some idea of the worldview that person is coming from. (I realized this when I was interning in Beverly Hills and I would see Orthodox Jews on the way to temple in the evenings.) But maybe it makes most Americans uncomfortable?

  2. :)

    i really hope i don’t have to wait until i see you again to hear the fullness of your thoughts on this… i’d trust any wound from you.

  3. This is a great reminder.

    My mom is currently plotting to host a Charlotte Mason convention and invite one of her friends who is a homeschooling expert in that direction…and the Muslim lady who is advocating for it as well, in a nearby state.

    I was a fan of this idea until she told me I’d be in charge of the childcare…

  4. so, i tried to comment on this a long time ago, like the day you posted it… but it didn’t work.

    but i really enjoyed this post. muslims make me happy. but the reactions americans have to a man who is obviously so make me really sad.

    and the part about the sparrow reminded me of the day a finch flew into my office. it’s always interesting to watch how birds act in enclosed spaces that are so unnatural for them.

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