St. Paul says that in God we live and move and have our being.
I often wonder how to best envision this reality.
St. Hildegard of Bingen said that each of us should be like a feather on the breath of God. This is a pleasant enough image. But it is also kind of limited. To think of ourselves as feathers is helpful for reminding us of the need to be docile to the Spirit. But we can easily slip from this into thinking of ourselves as purely passive to the Lord, where the moral life is just a matter of sitting around and waiting for the Lord to move us in some way or other.
So perhaps we can modify St. Hildegard’s image. Perhaps we can say that we are to be on the breath of God in the mode of something more active, like a sailboat, or better yet, like some sort of animal….
I propose flying squirrels.
We should be like flying squirrels on the breath of God.
Like airborne feathers, flying squirrels glide on the air. However, that’s not all they do. As they glide on that air, they stretch their limbs way out so that they can catch all the loft that the air has to offer. They use their tail like a rudder, aiming carefully for a certain branch or tree trunk or patch of ground. And while I’ve never actually seen it caught on camera, I am convinced that they now and again do mid-air flips and somersaults, just for the sheer fun of it.
And this image helps us to unpack a little more handily that phrase of St. Paul.
Insofar as God sustains us in being, holding us in existence, we are merely floating on the breath of God. But that particular way of being which God sustains in us is a free nature. It can kick and dive and spin and clap at will. And insofar as we have this freedom, we are like flying squirrels which are free to steer back and forth and do dives and somersaults. And, to be sure, we are free also to be idiots and fold in our limbs and miss out on that Breath, entering into a free-fall that doesn’t have a pretty ending.
This active flying on the breath of God is the joy of our free creature-hood. But it is something that we are still learning to do. For some reason, we often choose to contract our limbs so that we live and move in the Lord a lot less than we could. But at the end of all things, by the grace of God, we will finally live and move in God with the whole of our beings. We will finally have learned to let ourselves be fully borne by the Breath of the Lord.
And it will be high time for some mid-air somersaults.
Image: Pratik Jain, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel