Audio version read by Cheryl learning-to-fly.mp3
Learning to fly
I have asked lots of people this question – ‘do you fly in your dreams?’. Some do, many don’t. I love it when I have that dream, soaring above the landscape, enjoying the lofty perspective. Sadly in every flying dream I have, somewhere along the line I realize that I am not supposed to fly, and reluctantly drift back down to the narrowed constraint of just walking. Life is like that. We have moments of enlightenment, inspiration and immense aspiration. Then sooner or later, disappointment, failure, or expediency tugs at our wings and once again we slog through the ruts of familiarity and resignation.
Humans were designed for something beyond material life. We sense it. Our interest in the unknown confirms it. We chafe at the restraints of mortality, wrestle with who we are in pursuit of who we could be. We are designed with the capacity for delighting in the mystery of the world around us as well as contemplating the world within us. That breathless awe at the sunset, the symphony, the amazing magnitude of nature strikes a chord of longing in our hearts. There is a reason that Rocky Mountain National Park can induce what one can only describe as a “religious” experience.
Isn’t religion an attempt to connect to our immaterial essence – a venture into the unseen aspects of our being and a search for meaning? Our pursuit challenges us to wrestle with the beast inside, where we discover an attachment to the animal nature that so easily dominates us. We alternately resist or revel in the magnetic pull of creature-life, simultaneously longing for the wings of transcendent existence.
Some philosophies have reconciled this stress by proposing that the body is evil, like a trap. We are not free until we are liberated from it – easily proposed as its validity is untestable. Jesus, in contrast, invites us to participate in a “life from above” by relying on the “Man from above” to rectify our brokenness in the sight of God Who is “above all”. He then demonstrates how the two realities merge by living it out during His short earthly visit. We observe how our spiritual side should play out in the dust of our mortality. The soaring life of faith locks itself into the welfare of fellow mortals, those also created in the image of God. In one powerful example Jesus graphically displays spiritual realism with the homely act of washing His disciples’ feet. Though fraught with profound spiritual implications, one lesson is simply “Put on your big boy pants and humbly serve others.” Paul’s admonition to the aspiring believer is “Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be.” Ph 2:5 jbp
This really doesn’t look like flying at all! Seems demeaning, disgusting, inconvenient, distasteful. Well, that is indeed an unexpected flight plan! But observe anyone who is paying the price to enrich the lives of the vulnerable, the helpless, the sinful and the needy and you cannot help but see their contagious joy despite the personal cost.
I propose that following the example of a Saviour Who risked and lost it all (by the world’s limited measure) is the unexpected and costly path of entering into the beauty that ravishes our souls. Escaping gravity means relinquishing our rights. Transcendence means dependence. Connection to the Eternal requires prioritizing mortals, the least and the unlikely as well as our friends and family. Looking without, not within. The allure of art, poetic expression, literary genius, inspirational rhetoric and musical ecstasy exposes our yearning for symmetry in our souls. Beauty is a siren call to soul flight – an invitation to possibility. The pathway is both unexpected and daunting.
“The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing and frettings, coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said ‘be perfect’, he meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird. It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” CS Lewis – Mere Christianity
“So take these broken wings and learn to fly – all your life – you were only waiting for this moment to arise” Beatles
I haven’t flown in my dreams since childhood. I wonder why.