Like a Bird in a Cage

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

Cliff is away this week, attending a preaching conference on the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John with some top-notch pastors and theologians. Please keep him in your prayers as he studies and as he travels home to be with us on Sunday. Cliff asked me to write this column in his place this week, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a poem that I came across a few years ago while on a silent retreat. I was wrestling at that time with allowing the presence of the Holy Spirit to fill me and empower me in a deeper way. I’d always found the Holy Spirit a little scary and weird and wasn’t sure what might happen if I fully surrendered to the Spirit’s work in me. In her poem, “The Young Man,” Caryll Houselander writes about the inability of a man to turn to God and know the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s power:

. . . in him the Holy Ghost
is a poor little bird
in a cage,
who never sings,
and never opens his wings,
yet never, never
desires to be gone away.

The thought that I was treating the majestic Holy Spirit like a neglected pet parakeet shocked and grieved me. But it was true. I was afraid to open the cage door and let the Spirit sing and soar and have His way with me. I sat in silence with the poem for a long time, sat with my fear and sadness, with my willful refusal to throw open the cage and with the dread of how limp and lifeless my faith would be if I did not. When finally I opened the door and allowed the Holy Spirit to be and do what the Spirit is intended to be and do in my life, I found greater freedom and renewed energy to follow Christ.

I wish I could say that I never again shoved the Spirit back in that cage, but I continue to struggle with allowing the Spirit free reign in me. But at least now I know that the bird in the cage is a good gift who brings life and bears fruit that can come from nowhere else, and that helps me open the door again. I encourage you to participate fully in the Summer of the Spirit at Christ Church and consider how you are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s presence in you. You can find more information here on what’s coming up this summer.

Grace and peace,