We didn’t spot her until our descent.
Eyes focused on the prize, we ascended the sturdy metal beams — stairs and ladders, one after the other, hard hats protecting us from the low ceilings, some of us (yours truly!) clenching tighter with every set of stairs we climbed. But at long last, we made it to the top! Equal parts dizzying and dazzling, the view from the tower was a sight to behold: Look at Pilot Mountain! Hey – there’s the steeple of Wait Chapel! And along the way, we paused briefly to take in the reason for the climb: cracks in the terra cotta, spotty paint glaze, rusted piping, missing mortar, clear needs for some TLC. We could have stayed put for awhile, soaking in the heights of our fair city and the beauty of our building with a view enjoyed mostly by the birds. And on the day after Notre Dame burned a hole into the Paris skyline, our mutual appreciation for sacred space to care for and call our own was stronger than ever.
But we had work to do. (It is Holy Week, after all!) The way down was slower, a bit more careful, our legs wobblier without the benefit of seeing exactly where to go. Perhaps it was our more moderate pace, or maybe it was because we assumed we had already seen all the magic and mystery of the day at the peak, but there — nestled quietly between architectural splendor and dramatic feats of engineering on no less than the bracket that holds the scaffolding in place was the bird in her nest — a mourning dove, Roper tells me. Eyes fierce, posture protective, her presence steady and firm.
I thought of Jesus and the events of this Holy Week:
… looking over the top of Jerusalem and yearning to gather her up like a hen gathers her brood
… bearing peace in this world as a dove, mourning with those who mourn, watching intently for glimpses of God’s kingdom and pointing others to see
… calling us into sacred community and reminding us of the holiness of place
… descending from the height of the Holy into the world God so loved in order that all creation might know the limitless reach of God’s abundant love
And there, I gave thanks for the One who slows our pace with ordinary mystery, the One who gives life through his life — timeless and eternal, where moth and rust (and fire and disrepair) cannot destroy, the One who gathers and holds, protects and sets free.
Together in the work of Love,