“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”—Coco Chanel
“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.” Ludwig Wittgenstein
As I stepped out of our car and into the garage, I immediately noticed the twittering of a bird. This was not, necessarily, an unexpected sound during the month of June with the garage door open. Chirp, chirp, chirp–it was a frantic sort of cry. Chirp, chirp, chirp–the sound became more rapid, more insistent. Chirp, chirp, chirp—why was this sound so loud? Something nagged at my subconscious until my full attention came to rest on the source of this sound.
A small bird was in our garage. How long had it been here, I mused? I had left the garage door open while I ventured to the grocery store as my husband, John, remained home. It was perched on a shelf close to the ceiling directly opposite of the open door. Watching it, I noticed it fly upwards, hit its head on the ceiling, and alight once more on the shelf. Next, it flew towards the wide garage door, but instead of banking down and left, it zoomed upward and right; then plopped down in seeming frustration on top of the garage door.
Tittering its complaints even louder, it burst into flight towards the narrow side door. By this time, John had stepped out into the garage and quickly opened this door in anticipation of the bird’s exit. Instead, our little winged friend mounted upwards and hit its head against the doorframe. Flittering in a dazed like fashion, it managed to make it back to the opposite side of the garage to that ceiling-high shelf once more. John dashed around the garage waving his arms, hooting, and saying things like, “Fly this way bird.” The bird attempted, several more times in fact, its urgent callings, miscalculations, and repeated banging of its head just above doors of escape.
John then opened the other garage bay door. Surely now, with three open doors, our mournful, anxious sounding bird could successfully escape the walls of our garage. Alas, no. Chirping lugubriously for an escape, it took full flight towards the newly opened door. Hope ballooned within my chest for this stressed creature of God, but then faded with an exhale as the bird mounted upwards, instead of gliding low, and came to roost upon the top of this door where it remained, appearing to surrender.
Meanwhile, John and I carried in groceries; however, because of the heat on the outside, and the air conditioning on the inside, a vexing fly worked its way into the house. As I put away groceries, it kept banging itself again one window and another. I would try to shoo it towards the back door while simultaneously opening the door, only for the insect to veer upwards at the last minute, missing the open door. What was wrong with these flying creatures? Then, the lesson hit me as Divine Providence was once again providing me with an object lesson.
I think back to one of my earliest dates with John. We were in a parking garage trying to exit it through a glass door. We could clearly see our destination on other side, yet the more we pushed the door, the more firm it held. Were we to be trapped in this garage forever? John pushed. I pushed. Why was this door locked? I pushed. John pushed. We pushed together. Pausing, we looked into one another’s eyes filled with questions of what to do. Finally, it occurred to John to pull inward, instead of push outward, and the door opened easily.
As humans, so often we push and push under the illusion that we can control—control a situation, control our destiny, control another, and so forth. And yet, in all honesty, we are in control of very little. It is only when we relinquish control, look inwardly, and get quiet that we can hear the answers, the directions, and the solutions in whatever human situations we may find ourselves. Attempting to control an outcome, another human being, or a certain situation never works in the end. Ultimately, we can only control our own behaviors, actions/reactions, or words; and, we make the best choices when we take that inward gaze, allowing God to guide us. It is only when we put our full trust in God, that our direction, acceleration, and flight can be fully guided—but only our own—not that of others.
This was a hard and profound lesson as I witnessed the stunned bird, sitting motionless on top of the very door in which it could make its escape. Every now and then I would peek at this bird as it remained sitting, chest heaving, but voice now quiet. Had it given it up, or was it going inward to its earliest teachings with Mamma bird? Away I would walk, saying a prayer for the bird, and trying to ignore the pesky fly banging repetitively at the back door window. How many times have I witnessed loved ones, including myself, in a similar situation as that bird and fly? What a life metaphor.
Throughout my various positions in life, how many times have I tried to control another person or a certain outcome? Additionally, how many times have I tried to force something to happen in my own life without meditating on whether it was aligned with what I know to be true and right at my core? Further, how many times have I fretted over the behaviors, or circumstance of another, wishing these would change—wondering how I could change it? From war to politics, from drugs to poverty, from seemingly poor choices of friends to anxieties of loved ones, and so on, I must let it all go.
Instead, I must put into practice a saying I have often said to students of all ages in some variation: “You take care of you, that’s a full time job.” Life is not for me, or anyone else, to judge, push, and attempt to control. Instead, we must trust in Divine Providence, look inward, honor what we know to be true for self, and allow doors to open in Universal time—not ours.
Stepping out into the garage an hour or so later, I took in the bird, still poised on top of that garage door. Moments later, the birds wings defied inertia, gave lift, and accelerated swiftly, pitched right and slightly down, then soared, defying gravity and lifted out into the June afternoon never to be seen again.