Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | January 30, 2018

Longing to fly

The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.   Wilbur Wright

No one ever sees all her dreams become reality, all his hopes realized.

What happens when dreams fail us? When we can’t realize them no matter how much effort we expend?

The different outcome of dreams is as real as the difference between being a Patriots fan or an Eagles fan. Each one of those players dreams of winning the Super Bowl. All have dreams—attainable, reasonable dreams—but only half the people on the field will leave with their dreams intact. Does that mean the losers go home, quit football, never play again? I don’t think that’s going to happen, because dreams are resilient things. We long to soar with the eagles, and if that doesn’t happen, we grieve. But healthy people realize that there are other things that are also important, exciting dreams to reach for.

The desire to fly is as old as humanity. Ancient people looked into the sky and saw an eagle soar overhead. Or stood at the top of a cliff and wished to leap into flight instead of having to climb down.

Flight has also always been a metaphor for expansion of the human condition, getting closer to the gods, dreaming about doing something amazing.

The wings of eagles. Isaiah knew the type of metaphor that would capture the dreams of his generation and culture.

There is a significant turn here at Isaiah 40, this week’s text. Chapters 1-39 are about judgment on Israel and what was required for restoration from the exile in Babylon. They were an entire people with broken dreams. They believed God was punishing them and that they’d likely never see their homeland again. They’d lost their dreams.

They’d dreamed of raising children in the place they were raised, of dying in their hometown where they would be buried with their ancestors. Those dreams were shot.

At chapter 40, the change of language and style and intent is so striking that most modern scholars believe that starting here, we have a new author, or group of authors. “Comfort, comfort my people.”  “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem .”  “A voice cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.”

Now we’re hearing about how God hasn’t forgotten the people, even though they are discouraged, even though the things they dream about the most haven’t come to pass.

God will bring you home again. Until then, God is still with you. Have trust, even when you don’t sense God’s presence, because those who are paying attention may indeed fly like eagles, run without weariness, walk without fainting.

Flying, as I said at the beginning, isn’t just about flying. Humans have always believed that the gods inhabit the air. And flying—real or metaphorical—has always had a spiritual dimension. If you’ve ever looked out the window of a plane you know what I’m talking about. You see the largeness of the planet, the horizon, the seeming insignificance of a single event or person. Flying is metaphor for dreaming big dreams, for reaching for the heavens with our ideas and our successes.

And yet…

Isaiah indicates that God imparts significance on each human soul. While the earth is huge and the universe even larger, each life means something important. Everyone’s dreams are valuable, even if every dream can’t be realized. And they can’t.

Amy Purdy is a Paralympian in snowboarding, and has starred in a Toyota commercial Super bowl, Dancing with the Stars, and the Amazing Race. She lost her legs at the age of 19 from meningitis. She addresses the concept of dreams and limitations to those dreams in her TED talk, “Living Beyond Limits.”

Eleven years ago, when I lost my legs, I had no idea what to expect. But if you ask me today, if I would ever want to change my situation, I would have to say no. Because my legs haven’t disabled me; if anything, they’ve enabled me. They’ve forced me to rely on my imagination and to believe in the possibilities, and that’s why I believe that our imaginations can be used as tools for breaking through borders, because in our minds, we can do anything and we can be anything.

It’s believing in those dreams and facing our fears head-on that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits. And although today is about innovation without borders, I have to say that in my life, innovation has only been possible because of my borders. I’ve learned that borders are where the actual ends, but also where the imagination and the story begins.

… It’s not about breaking down borders. It’s about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us.

Amy Purdy’s story is about resilience. It’s about reaching for big dreams, having them taken from you, and reaching again for something else. It’s about where this metaphor of flying, running and walking reaches real life.

Who hasn’t lost out on a dream?  You didn’t get into that school you wanted. Your relationship isn’t what you had hoped. Your money situation is far from what you’d expected it would be. You haven’t changed the world.

We’re all on the short end of life’s dreams from time to time. We’re all the people of God stuck in Babylon when we want to be back home.

We’re all—at some point or other—longing, aching, thirsting to be able to fly like an eagle, fly right out of the situation we’re in and into what would be a better one.

Have faith, says Isaiah. Faith that helps us fly, run or walk can be found even in Babylon, though that’s hard to imagine. Even after loss, though that may seem wrong to you now. Even when you are in your darkest place.

Because, people of Israel, you’ve forgotten that you’re not alone in Babylon. God traveled there with you when you were forced from your home, when you loaded up your donkey with all the belongings it could carry, when you closed the door on your house and weren’t sure you’d ever be back.

God is with us, travels with us, to our darkest places, to the innermost recesses of our souls. To those places and times when we feel we will never fly again.

But…If we can’t fly, maybe we can run. If we can’t run, maybe we can walk.

Sometimes our souls soar, sometimes they barely move along.

Either way, God is alongside, and the movement of souls to a better state is always possible. A state where dreams meet reality, and where both dream and reality find a way into the future together.Aerial view, blog, copyright

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2018


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