It was in the wee hours of the morning that they woke me. At first, I wondered if I had dreamt it but, as I lay awake, their calls filled my darkened room. Getting up and quietly pulling on my slippers, I leaned against the open screen and listened more deliberately.
Sure enough, they were out there. Not one, but most likely two or more owls screeching and hooting; each marking their territory. Carefully, I opened the door to the patio and slipped out unnoticed. I wanted to enjoy their conversation for as long as I could.
Their hollow hoots took me back to a night many years earlier in the same back yard. We all were gathered around a camp fire and my three young children, no older than nine or 10, heard an owl for the first time. As we silently listened to the haunting call, the camp fire flames danced in the night creating a most desired effect; it was a night we won’t forget. The awe I felt that night returned as I now sat alone listening deeply from the back deck.
Earlier that night, I had prayed asking for words, the kind of words a minister is to preach on a Sunday following a week of terrible headlines. That week we had witnessed wild fires strip thousands of acres of land, homeless people pitch make-shift tents in city centres, random stabbings on the Toronto subway and, locally, we had the deaths of two young promising youth.
These owls had arrived to answer that very prayer. Their timelessness reminded me of God’s great mystery, awe, and eternal presence.
As the owls flew away leaving behind the wind whispering through the pine trees, I knew I had my answer. As First Nation’s writer, Richard Wagamese once wrote, “I know that the price of faith is the courage to walk through anything with belief in immaculate love … and the value of faith is eternal.”
There is eternal value in trusting God’s love, participating in the great mystery and remaining open to God’s un-chartable awe.