Nick and I are savoring a leisurely walk through the retreat center meadow, leaves crunching beneath our feet, autumn colors feasting our eyes, and the calls of birds in the surrounding forest filling our ears. “Cuk-cuk-cuk!” Pleased that I could identify its cries, I tell Nick, “I recognize that bird: it’s a flicker!”
As we continue our stroll, we hear it again: “Cuk-cuk-cuk!” That’s awfully loud for a flicker—it’s as if he’s learned to project his cry with a booming bass voice. And when we hear him pecking on the trees in the woods around us, it resounds powerfully. That must be a really big flicker!
It dawns on me that I might not be as familiar with the flicker’s voice as I thought. Could this be one of his woodpecker relatives? Then we see him fly across our path: huge black wings with distinctive white bars—definitely not a flicker! “Pileated woodpecker” pops into my head. I open my bird app to look at the description: “In flight, look for prominent white underwings.” I listen to recordings of the pileated woodpecker’s calls. It’s a match: a cry that’s like the flicker’s but an octave lower!
Holy Spirit catches my attention. It seems He’s saying, “Learn from this. Don’t assume you already recognize what you’re hearing from Me. Listen a little more. Wait a bit longer. Pay closer attention. There’s more I want to reveal to you. You can’t fully understand if you think you already grasp what you’re hearing.”
The following afternoon, I’m resting on a bench along a forest path at the retreat center. Just sitting. Listening. Observing. Speaking to the Lord in my heart. The flap of wings catches my attention: the pileated woodpecker is back! This time I have a clear vantage point: brilliant red head with a crest that looks like a hairdo from the 50’s, massive beak as big as his head, huge black body the size of a crow. I watch him for ten minutes or more as he hammers away at one tree, then swoops to another to bang on that one. He’s fully exposed, fully revealed.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20 ESV).
If we accept our Savior’s invitation to open the door and take the time to sit down to the table with Him, it’s easier to grasp the fullness of what He’s saying. Similar to the way I sat watching the pileated woodpecker that day in the woods, when we quiet ourselves and linger at the table with Him, Jesus often has more that He wants to reveal to us.
Lord, help us to recognize Your voice as you invite us to open the door and spend some time with you to share a meal, listen to You, and grasp more of what You’re saying to us.