I woke up with swallows flying around in my head.
The way they dip and wheel and dart and glide, wings and tail trailing behind with the aerodynamics of a Ferrari and the elegance of a Coco Chanel gown. That flash of red at their throat. The arrow flight. The certainty and industry of their day.
How do I explain the significance of these beautifully common creatures of the sky, and why my spirit is so stirred when I see them? How do I explain the way the Holy Spirit tenderly speaks to me when I spy them making their mud nests in the eaves and arcing overhead?
I climbed out of bed before the house had revved into get-ready gear, grabbed my Bible and settled into the lounge. Alone. But not. I flicked to the passage my church is reading this week. Psalm 84. And I read this:
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty. My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” (verses 1-4)
Wiping tears. Heart full. Understanding dawning.
The swallow motif is about that word ‘dwelling’. Another word like it: abiding. Knowing to make our nest in His presence. Residing there.
And the psalm goes on to say, “Blessed are those… who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Which is a little confusing, as the psalm begins with metaphors of dwelling, staying, making home. The writer says that these people, wherever they go, “make it a place of springs”. With strength mustered from God’s own mighty hand, they make lush gardens in desert places. Importantly, they do not call any city or town ‘home’. “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
Home is dwelling in God’s presence, in His perfect will, there, where our gifts flourish and draw others to Himself. That is home until we are called Home.
Many species are migratory and swallows as a whole are extremely adaptable, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. Aren’t we the same? We are resilient and adaptable. If we want to be. But we can also be cosseted into safe, cosy places with a predictable rhythm and tune. Fat hens in their coops, fed twice daily, a nice place to roost, a little bit of ground to scratch in. But not too much. Not beyond the safety of that wire mesh.
Am I a fat hen or a swallow?
Do I make my nest in His presence, near His altar, or do I settle for the coops the world offers? Sold as freedom, but not freedom at all. There to fatten us on unimportant distractions that lead us away and away and away.
That’s why I love swallows. Thank you God for articulating it to me so clearly and so immediately. Again!
And that’s why you will find a little swallow signing off every story you read in my book, FLaM. Pointing you to the spacious and wondrous home of His presence.