I attended a memorial service yesterday for a man of passion and integrity. Bill was born in India. His first religion was Sikhism, which believes in one God. When he moved to America at age 20, he encountered Christianity. It made no sense to him. Why would God become a man?
On Christmas Eve 1964, he heard Paul Harvey on the radio. Harvey related the story of a man in the Midwest. Let’s call him John. John was a respected man, a good farmer, husband, father. Like Bill (and many of the rest of us) John just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of divinity wrapped in human flesh. One winter Sunday, he sent his family off to church and settled into his chair.
Suddenly there was a crash. He ran outside, and saw that a small bird had gotten cold and disoriented in the snow (winter in the Midwest, remember) and crashed into his living room picture window. The bird was huddled, shivering.
John ran to his barn, opened the doors wide, and tried to shepherd the bird inside, where it would be safe and could recover. The bird didn’t understand, and flew this way and that to avoid him. John even tried using a broom to shoo the bird into the warm shelter, but the bird didn’t understand and grew ever more frantic.
“If only I could become a bird for just a minute,” thought John. “I could talk to him and lead him to safety.”
Just then, in the distance, the church bells rang. And John understood.
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So did Bill. The next day, he joined the Lutheran church and became a powerful advocate for the hungry and needy in his community. He will be missed.
Christ and other bodhisatvas didn’t come to tell us about a warm, safe haven in some future incarnation. They come to lead us to it in this life, to show us that our wings will carry us there now.
Like Bill, my life was enlarged when I chose to accept the unexplainable, to believe that divinity dwelt among us – that it still dwells among us, within us, within me. Rather than flying in fear, I look for the barn doors. And I try to show others the spark of divinity within themselves, so they can find the warm barn, too.