watching for blue finches

A chiropractor showed me a miracle. Not directly, but here’s what happened. 

I had taken a hiatus from running for a bit, mostly because of knee pain gained from a marathon back in 2010. To my untrained mind, I had blown or torn or distended or fricasseed some part of my knee and it was a lost cause. 

I began seeing a chiropractor this year, and she told me I was wrong. It was a simple tendon issue. I was so happy to be wrong. 

In light of that, I’ve been running more and more ever since. Last Saturday, I celebrated both the Mother’s Day weekend and the fact that the Chicago cold had broken for the annual 3 month vacation – but had yet to yield to the crockpot of summer – by going for a run. 

Headphones in. Lungs engaged. I had only a small window of time so I pressed the pace. 

Listening to NEEDTOBREATE, the song “Hard Times” came on: 

Give me an answer
Give me a way out
Give me the faith, to believe in these hard times

The truth of human experience sings in these lyrics. We start by asking for intellectual clarity about the suffering or trials we’re in, then we go to the practical solutions (“Get me out of this”) that we’d happily accept even without intellectual clarity. 

Then, we move to the really rich moment: just give me the ability to trust that there is a “through” to this valley. 

The pace increased, I felt the hope in my own body somehow. Then out of the corner of my left eye I caught a flash of color along the path of the forest preserve. 

A blue finch. 

Rare bird as it is, doubly beautiful because of my fondness for red and yellow finches, the blue finch stayed just ahead of me on the left as I ran. The problem is that it isn’t native to the US, but only to savannas and dryer countries. Yet I know what I saw. I can’t explain it. Or…

Give me the faith to believe in these hard times. 

A blue finch shows up and we may or may not see it. Sometimes we are blinded by the suffering, desperately searching for answers or a way out, and we are unable to turn and notice the beauty at our side. The divinity on display in a shade of blue that was sourced from a pallet that only exists on the other side of eternity. 

I picked up the pace. Energy coming through every pore, sweat dripping; my glasses sliding down my nose causing my field of vision to blur and clarify over and over again. 

Then the song changed -“Keep Your Eyes Open” rolled into my ears. 

Don’t let the fear become the hate
Don’t take take the sadness to the grave
I know the fight is on the way
Where the sides have been chosen

‘Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
Open up your eyes
Keep your eyes open.

Blue finches fly in and out of our suffering lives. I wasn’t particularly suffering (unless you count the reality of a 40 year old man with a decidedly Irish skeletal structure running 3 or so miles) but I knew others who were....

  • Families torn by substances, selfishness, and circumstance.
  • Marriages missing each other by inches in the fight to be known. 
  • The children who don’t even realize that receiving physical pain is not the same as being hugged. 
  • The corruption of our identity because we happened to be born as a woman or born into a country where our skin looks suspicious to larger, more powerful nations.
  • Mental illness like a spectre, unpredictable and destabilizing, causes loved ones to shake their heads and make another trip during visiting hours. 
  • Disease. Oppression. Spiritual battles so deep they defy words. 

Open up your eyes. Blue finches, radiant and simple without agenda are collecting everywhere around the periphery of our view. 

Keep your eyes open. 

I was no longer running at this point – I was immolating. 

The story of an old Desert Father (4th C. AD) came to mind; the one who showed his young student his fingers, suddenly dotted with flames, and then said, For God you may learn how to become all fire. 

Snagging smaller and smaller breaths, I extended what should have been 2 miles to 3 and felt the capillaries crackle in my calves. 

Tears came to my eyes. The finches come when we have lost our humanity, the core of our spirituality, and the core of God’s work through Jesus. 

They come when we’ve decided that to be separate and right is better than being together and thoughtful. 

The blue finches come. Chiropractors tell us our injuries are not what we thought. We keep our eyes open. Suddenly heaven and earth aren’t that far apart, and as Elizabeth Barrett Browning says “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”

And then, in the valley of true dark, we see a miracle. 

And the fight is on the way. 

Keep your eyes open.