A grace between chapters

This is from my journal of the spring of 2008, while walking on a trail from D.C. to Pittsburgh, learning the gospel of John by heart. 



Something just landed in the algae-covered canal with a peal of alarm.  I think it is a female wood duck who is now swimming toward six downy babies.  (No, I didn’t get a picture.) She skims to the other side of the canal and slaps her wings on the water, whether to distract me from her babies or to get their attention to follow, I don’t know.  But follow her they do, while she makes an unusual, clear call.  I continue to walk in the direction they are swimming when suddenly the mother bursts ahead, skittering and slapping on the green muck.  The little ones can’t keep up, and they quickly lose her. Then they start peeping frantically, looking for her.  I am beside them now.  Fearing the stranger, one of them turns around and heads back in the opposite direction, moving far away from me.  Since mom is not around, the others chase after their sibling leader.

Meanwhile the female duck, farther ahead of me, is swimming in circles.  Her little ones, now a distance away, are still calling for her, but she holds back.  Finally, having waited until my walking brings me closer to her, she lifts herself out of the canal, glides over the towpath to the river, and furtively circles back behind trees in the direction of her babies. The peeping stops, a good sign, except for one lone peep sounding nearby.  A duckling, slightly bigger than the others, calls from the spot where the mother duck took to the air.  Does this one belong to her or is it an orphan?  Will it find its siblings?  Or will it, out on its own in the algae jungle, become turtle or hawk food?  I do not know the ways of ducks, but I do know the vast vulnerability that can come from loneliness and separation.  It is echoing now across the water.  Yes, I have known in many ways, in myself and in others, that pitiful search for a safe haven, a soft wing.

“They will not follow the voice of a stranger, but they will run from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”  John 10:5

Jesus said that.  He did not consider himself a stranger. Once he thought of himself as the wing of a mother hen.  Food for thought.