The shadow of a bird flying overhead crossed in front of me during my run the other day. It cast a large and well defined shadow on the tar road I ran. After one leg in front of the other I found myself passing through the shadow’s path. I raised my head hoping to spot a hawk or maybe an eagle. No, a raven it was. The big black avian creature had passed overhead and was alighting onto a neighboring tree.
There is nothing special about ravens in these parts. They’re everywhere and, even when not seen, they’re “caw, caw” is often overheard.
To me, though, ravens have a special significance. God has often used ravens to assure me that He provides what is needed. I recall the Old Testament story of Elijah at the brook of Kerith (1 Kings 17) during a prolonged famine in the land. God calls Elijah to this brook, an isolated place without food, and tells him to stay put. Faith-filled Elijah does so and what does God do? God sends ravens twice a day to Elijah–they come carrying bread and fresh meat for brunch and dinner. God does the grocery shopping and even does delivery–nice! Elijah is taken care of, is protected and provided for. Ravens get the special honor of being God’s messengers of divine provision.
In our present income-less situation, I don’t expect God to commission ravens to drop dead animals and loaves of Wonder Bread on our deck or even send the proverbial check in the mail. I do expect Him, though, to show us where He wants us and to reveal His direction for our future. The raven’s shadow I passed through reminds me of being under the shadow of His wing (noted in Psalms 17, 36, 57, 63)–a place of refuge, protection and provision. A good place to be, a good place to stay.
As I continued to plod along I pondered, for a second, why I see and hear ravens so often. Then it dawned on me, I was tuned into them. As God’s harbingers of hope, I unconsciously have my radar set to notice them. They are a physical sign (to me) that God is about, doing His thing. They are a sign that He does provide and protect. They are a tangible reminder that He is present. Maybe He even sends them my way to remind me of all of this.
“Unconscious radar” may need some explaining, so I’m going to give the simplest analogy I know. Have you ever made a purchase and then come to realize how many other people have made the same purchase? For example, let’s say you bought a burnt orange Ford pick-up truck, thinking it “Oh, so unique”, only to discover, as you’re tearing up the highways and byways in the following weeks, that burnt orange Ford pick-up trucks are everywhere. All of a sudden what you thought was a novelty is actually quite common. Before burnt orange Ford pick-ups were on your radar, you didn’t see them (not consciously). They were present, but your radar wasn’t set to spot them.
I think our radar reveals what has wheedled its way into our life. What we are tuned into, what we have invited or allowed into our consciousness gets eyeballed, get noticed. The little blip, the sudden “oh, there it is again”, on our radar screen reveals what we are tuned in to spot, whether we’re aware of it or not.
How we view what is on the radar is pivotal to our wellbeing…is that blip an enemy bomber or a friendly aircraft? Do I feel humiliated because burnt orange Ford trucks populate streets or am I grateful for being in such good company? Am I horrified at the presence of big black birds overhead or am I heartened? Ford pick up trucks and ravens are neutral entities, how we perceive them, though, colors how they inhabit our individual and collective psyches. They take on significance beyond their simple function-ness, because we give them that significance. That superfluous significance oftentimes reveals how we view our world…
I think the ‘trick’ in all of this is noting what we’re tuned into. Whatever it is, it may be unconsciously motivating our thoughts and actions. Dare I say, it probably also reflects where our heart is, where our focus is.
Conspiracy theorists and paranoid souls have well developed radar screens that are consciously or unconsciously being perpetually watched. Focused on some perception or idea, they become aware of everything that could possibly support that idea. For instance, they not only see burnt orange pick-ups everywhere, out to assault their uniqueness, they start to assume all trucks, maybe even all vehicles, are threatening to their personhood or to the wellbeing of the planet. They demonize the Ford company, maybe even all automobile manufacturers and those who support them. Pretty soon, giant industries and institutions are out to get them, out to suck dry and destroy the world, like a planet sucking parasite.
Wow! Doom and gloom…can’t end with that. Ummm…how about setting our radars to God? Hmmm….Does this sound incredibly nebulous? Yeah, I concede.
Maybe if we ask Him to set our radars, we’ll start seeing as He sees, we’ll start noticing what is on His radar. Maybe then our radar will start reflecting His radar. If we dare go there, we may find healing for our disoriented radar systems, we may find fear receding and hope and love appearing. We may discern aright, for once, what is Real, what is True.
I guess there is no way to know for sure…without seeking and surrender, there is no way to know for sure…