Keith Wishum: Flying toward home
Have you ever stood in front of an open refrigerator wasting electricity while you try to decide what you want? You stand there thinking, “I want something; I just don’t know what it is.”
Have you ever thought of life like that? There is something we crave. We feel a gnawing inside for it, but we aren’t at all sure what it is we’re after. Trying to satisfy that hunger, some of us sample everything we can find. Others just decide Mick Jagger was right and conclude that “I can’t get no satisfaction.” So, why bother?
Not the monarchs. They don’t do either. They just fly home.
Those fragile orange and black butterflies we see all summer, flying awkwardly from flower to flower like drunken sailors, are not so delicate as they appear. As days shorten and temperatures fall, millions of monarchs begin to migrate. Some will fly on tiny wings 2,000 to 3,000 miles to the mountains of central Mexico! There each will somehow find its way to a specific tree where its grandmother rested the winter before.
At just the right elevation to maintain a cool, but not freezing temperature, blankets of butterflies cover the trees, hibernating until the winter again warms into spring. Then, they’ll fly home again to give birth to a whole new generation.
Why do they do that? Yes, they would die if they stayed in Canada or Minnesota, freezing in the bitter cold. But why not just stay in Mexico year-round and skip all that exhausting flapping and flying? So far as I know, nobody has an answer for that question except that it’s just the way they’re wired. There is something inside of them that draws them home, so they fly.
Maybe, it’s that way with us, too. Perhaps that unexplained longing we feel inside was built into us to draw us home — toward the One who made us. Maybe that’s what Solomon meant when he said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Perhaps that’s what David meant when he said of himself, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
At any place during the migration, the inexplicable urge to keep moving is still there. The thirst remains unquenched. All we can do is to keep flapping clumsily but steadily toward home.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.