Swanning along – Look, See, Pray

Starlings are brash and gregarious birds. We flaunt our plumage and our ability to sky dance in flocks of thousands. But we accept some other birds are OK… those flashy peacocks, zippy hummingbirds, and graceful serene swans as three random examples.

It’s swans on my mind today. They are the triathletes of birdworld: elegant long wings that take them speedily through the air. Serenity personified as swans glide across lakes. Waddling like hippos with a wedgie on dry land.

I hope that last image stays with you for a while!

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This swan was caught in awkward pose as it preened itself- hardly the most glamorous pose for posterity!  But what happens out of the limelight makes the difference when others watch. Swans that try to swim without ordering and oiling their feathers sink. Flight depends on strong pinions and good insulation from properly preened and presented plumage.

Its ugliest gait needs little preening. Swans can lurch and waddle on the dry land without a care in the world- until the air or water calls or danger threatens.

This youngling has been a slow developer- the smallest and weakest of its gaggle. It had the good fortune to be hatched in a place where local humans watched over the brood, helped feed the family, and took note of progress. As they spoke to me, they expressed confidence that in a few days this noble bird would be fully integrated and mobile.

Here’s a “swan principle” then. Not the one about webbed feet thrashing madly underwater whilst gliding serene on the surface. We all know that one.

This principle applies to our growth as maturing humans. Integrity matters: and integrity grows when we do the preparation, the hard work, behind the scenes. When we learn to behave well when no-one is looking, we are establishing a true character that will be consistent in public and private.

Applied to our spirituality, it rings true. If our faith is only for outward show, we are no more than hypocrites. If we are set on being Jesus-followers with integrity and obedience, it will take hard work behind the scenes where only God sees us. That’s hard. We will fail sometimes. But like the swan, we can always preen again, come clean to God and ourselves, and get ready to sail or fly free.

God’s grace and forgiveness are there as free gifts for the asking through Christ crucified and Risen. The Holy Spirit helps us with that indwelling Presence. Don’t despair! But do take Jesus seriously when He looks at your heart of hearts. He will be Lord of all, or not Lord at all. Speaking personally- it is so good to know He is compassionate and patient, and wants our very best. God’s integrity and power mean He can be trusted and relied on. The choice is mine- and yours.

Mark 7:6 Jesus replied “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.”

Lord, help me keep my heart pure, and my eyes fixed on You. Amen.


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