I wasn’t sure if I’d hear it again – the distinctive rattle that for weeks when we first moved to Savannah we could not identify. It literally shook the house and seemed like maybe the fireplace was falling in. What could make that reverberating jackhammer sound on the metal chimney pipe.
Of course, we soon realized it was one of the beautiful red-feathered woodpeckers that live in our yard. He would miss dinner if he stayed too long on our rooftop, but the near dead tree in the yard was a prime feeding area and at various times we had red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, hairy and downy woodpeckers: a veritable Audubon collection for southeast Georgia. I have often spotted them in the trees and even on the bird feeder, but can never catch them on the chimney pipe. As you might imagine, they don’t stay there long. But that sound is always shocking – such a big tremor from a not-so-very-big bird.
I think that the Spirit of God, what I might call in my tradition the Holy Spirit, is a lot like that woodpecker. When it comes calling, the Spirit shakes the very foundation of my soul. It is always unexpected, but I admit that it is always welcome. I smile while my house and my spirit is shaking. It’s like the music of Creation on my roof and in my heart.
But that is almost certainly because I have now identified it. The first few times we heard the woodpecker, I do not exaggerate to say that I worried about the future status of my house. I imagined it all falling down around me. And the same is true of my soul when the Spirit first jarred my pithy existence. But now, I welcome both the Spirit and the woodpecker. I like the excitement and the new opportunities the Spirit brings. And to be honest I get a kick out of imagining that bird on the roof determined to get the bug that can’t possibly live in the metal pipe.
I asked my husband for a picture for this post, and he admitted that he had all sorts of bird pictures, but none of those woodpeckers. They just do not wait around to have their picture taken. I guess that’s another way they’re like the Holy Spirit – always on to the next place.
After Hurricane Matthew a couple of years ago, we lost a bit of the dead tree and we didn’t have as many woodpeckers. Just this week was the first I had heard the rattling chimney pipe in years. Once again it made me smile. After a long dry spiritual season, I feel reinvigorated by the Spirit too. Welcome back to both of them.
Is there anything in your faith or spiritual life that frightens you? Does it continue to frighten you after you have identified what it is or was it mostly the shock that scared you? Do you have the Holy Spirit or something like that in your faith tradition. What does the word “spirit” indicate to you? Do you like the things that shake your world or do you wish things were a bit more steady, especially right now?
If you would like to explore your own spiritual life, consider spiritual direction with Openings: Let the Spirit In. We can help if the Spirit is shaking your soul or if you’d like to stir it up a bit yourself.