Walking home along the cycle path, lost in thought, I am startled out of my interior world by a pigeon, breaking out of the trees to my left and flying over to the trees on my right, a leafy branch held in its beak.
It reminded me of Noah. The Bible tells us of a time when Yahweh expressed deep sorrow at the corruption of humanity, and the lesser gods saw an opportunity to compete to bring about their destruction. Rain fell incessantly for five weeks. The Tigris and Euphrates burst their banks, while the Gulf rose up and swept-in over the Fertile Crescent, flooding the earth from horizon to horizon, covering the basin of Iraq, hemmed-in by the mountains of Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, and Syria to the west.
Forewarned, Noah follows Yahweh’s instruction to build an ark and to fill it with every domesticated animal and semi-domesticated bird, along with the crops to feed them. To prepare to begin again. Some in pairs, and some in greater numbers, depending on husbandry and purpose.
After the ark comes to rest on the foothills of the Turkish mountains, and the waters begin to drain away, Noah sends out a dove, a pigeon. It returns with an olive branch in its mouth, a sign of life. Later Noah sends it out again, and it does not return. Why choose an ark over a world, unless, of course, you have to?
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t only reminded of the story of Noah because of the bird with a branch in its beak. I was reminded of the story of Noah by the bird with a branch in a moment when I felt overwhelmed by waves of sadness, as might flood over any of us from time to time. As I was expressing that sadness in conversation with God.
There are other stories in the Bible that equate the dove with the Spirit of God.
Whether the dove was God or sent by God, or simply that a story was given by God long ago to give us a certain perspective or outlook, I met with God on the cycle path, and heard the promise that, while floods happen, this too will pass.
As the motto of the city of Sunderland has it, nil desperandum, auspice deo. Do not despair in anything, only trust God.