by Sonia Abraham
Among the bare winter-worn trees, a flock of starlings lifts from their roosting spot. They loom across the sky like a thin black lace veil. They change directions, forming new shapes with every movement. The flock contracts into a heart, then stretches across the sky in a long, sinewy band, then contracts into a tight sphere. This murmuration of starlings, the ebb and flow of shape and form of birds, happens every evening at dusk in the winter here close to this particular spot where I sit captivated. The darkening shadows of the trees, barren of all their leaves, turn their gray, naked branches upward as if offering their applause.
The flock moves back and forth, back and forth across the graying sky. They soar upward, then zoom down, move east, then west, holding each direction for a few seconds before changing. The patterns appear both random and purposeful. It is breathtaking and bewildering. Which bird leads? When a few birds straggle behind, how do they quickly fall back into place? How do they know where to go and what shape they will form? I’m mesmerized by the unexpected beauty of the warp and weft of their formations that stretch and contract into an endless number of designs. Scientists have offered possible reasons for these murmurations, but they still have no definitive answers.
I raise my hand to the sky, wanting to trace my hand along the surface of the flock, skimming each bird’s smooth iridescent feathers as they move left, then right, then back again. This rhythm feels both soothing and surprising, every shape formed differs slightly from the last.
The rhythms of my own life that once felt smooth and predictable were disrupted a few years ago when my marriage ended in a painful, unexpected divorce. I felt the fabric of my life had unraveled. Torn apart never to be put back together again. The straight lines of my life were stretched thin, pulled taut, and twisted. The thin threads at the edge of my soul were frayed. I came undone. I moved back and forth, tracing over the fading lines of that life, craving familiar patterns that formed into new directions, longing for them to conform to familiar shapes, trying to make sense of rhythms that felt unnatural.
My heart murmured questions to God. Why did this happen? Why me? Why now? It was the beginning of a long season of loss upon loss. How much more? These groanings which once went against the fabric of my being to complain to God were an honest examination seeking answers from the One who is Sovereign. Bringing them into the light helped me release the illusion of control I thought I had. They sought answers that God did not reveal. “Be still and know that I am God,” I read repeatedly. And I clung to that thread of truth like a lifeline.
I wanted the rhythms of my life to be predictable, comfortable, soothing. But God called for a change. I had to trust that though I didn’t know the reasons for these changes or even what changes would happen, I had to believe that God was Sovereign over this too.
Minutes later, the starlings are still flying above, in the same rhythms with different shapes and patterns. That I am a spectator to this impromptu performance brings a quiet satisfaction to my soul after years of unexpected changes in my life. God knows why they do this.
The same God that created this flock’s seamless rhythmic movement also knit me in my mother’s womb. He stretched the fabric of my being and coiled it upon itself and pulled me down to the depths. These uncomfortable rhythms called me to be more like Jesus, to have faith in the unknown, to appreciate the unfamiliar, and to accept the unanswered and undesired parts of my life. God didn’t need to tell me or show me how I was made for me to know that I was made in His image for a reason. It is not random nor without reason. Nor are these changes. But I needed to trust that the mystery of His words spoken thousands of years ago still remained true today.
After the frayed ends of that season were discarded, I find that the new rhythms that have emerged in a life I once thought implausible are both surprising and beautiful.
After uprooting from the East Coast to Texas and experiencing the heartbreak of a long marriage ending, Sonia Abraham found herself overwhelmed by grief. But she discovered that God grieves endings too. As a medical writer and editor by profession, Sonia crafts words on her blog to encourage others to seek the Lord while grieving the loss of their relationships. Her favorite job is being mother to three teens and Baxter the rescue pup. She’s currently training for her next marathon. Connect with her at www.soniaabraham.net, Facebook and Instagram.