Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.
– Agatha Christie
We arrived early this week to our cabin in the mountains. An inexperienced robin is building her nest in the supports of our deck. It seems, for each blade of straw used in construction, another gets dropped onto the profuse pile below. Two prosperous irrigation ditches border the property where the bird darts low, gathering mud and sticks from the moist banks, securing the grass before it tumbles to the floor. Her efforts, while painful to observe, have resulted in a sturdy nest, shaped just right, with ample room to house and hatch the fertilized brood when her time comes.
I, myself, know something about building nests. While expecting each of our three children, we moved. In an attempt to create a home, preparing the nest for my babies, I ambled and crept up and down ladders to paint rooms and hang pictures. My nesting instinct carried me to exhaustion in the belief my productive days were over once the new child arrived. No conversation or argument could dissuade me from this instinctual drive. My nests, built and prepared, stick by stick.
I am once again nesting in preparation for the arrival of our new church. One recent early morning, my precious sleep was mocked by four years of unchecked accumulation. The moon glowed high at 3:00 lighting my way to the garage to begin the work of organizing and cleaning. As my nesting instinct kicked into overdrive, I noticed the call of my body. The wondering, worrying, sleepless sorting all siphoned toward the anticipated and joyful arrival of new life.
Female instincts are woven deep. As I become less concerned with appearance and more invested in a generous and justice-seeking life, I am learning to explore the deep, innate sense that moves inside of me. Recovering from a lifetime of tamping down a body’s instincts is not easy. Letting a body lead, letting a body inform ahead of the mind is not culturally acceptable. And this ever so important work of listening, considering, and responding without judgment, requires me to rest and trust in grace and the Spirit.
My methods are not linear, nor can they be carefully bullet pointed and proven. But as my precious robin friend demonstrates, there oftentimes is no observable rhyme or reason. There is no “right” process. There are detours and dead-ends and an eventual, hopeful arrival. Expectations must be tempered and the nest may appear disheveled and disastrous, but the nest exists, capable of housing and holding beautiful new life.
The mother robin knows her body. She knows the cycles and the signs. She knows the operating instincts. She knows the life growing inside and pays attention to the need to lay and incubate. Her nest, while inefficient, is functional. The walls perfected, sturdy up against the roof’s beams. In and out she flies, hundreds of times a day, securing and cementing, responding to the call of what she knows.
I am in the grip of wonder. Nature offers a respite from the concerns of the world, a relief from the burdens and fear, the infighting and lies. Nature reminds me of what is inside me, my instincts for generosity and awe. The robin builds her nest to prepare for the fertilized batch. The slight hummingbirds waft about, seeking sustenance by the gram. Dogs splash in ditches, and the young teenager motorcycles and mountain bikes his way across the property, mastering and surmounting all obvious obstacles. As the river runs its due course, rising by the minute with melted snowpack, the green grows, the sun draws her arc across the sky, and the moon trails in tandem.
Nature and beauty prevail, and this is where I must remain. The heartbeat of wonder, brewing and sustaining, the goodness and persistence of hope carrying us forward and back in the dance of flow. We grieve and break down, rebuild and renew. Resurrection is what we are designed to do, to yearn into life and trust the rise and fall of tide. We must rest in the tension of existence, in the bass notes of love that call us forth into our great becoming.
I trust the robin’s nest will withstand the daily thunderstorms and the comings and goings of a busy family in the woods. I trust her process, remembering my own – my seeming nonsensical approach to awaiting new life, following the rhythms of instinct, the roll of the gut.
I rest in what I know. The world is held. It is in times of derision and suffering when goodness thrives. When hope is distant is where we find our footing in faithfulness of life and breath. The whispers of the Spirit invite us into deeper and longer rest, careful and faithful waiting. We hold back, trusting in the generous grace and remember whose we are and why we are here.
We are created as the sustainers and the seekers, the lovers and caregivers. As life is stored up inside of us, as life yearns to emerge, we trust. We wait. We listen and respond, knowing that the pinprick of instinct and the fire in our bellies can teach the world a little something about resurrection.