Light as a feather.
Not an aphorism I typically use for God. But it’s been floating around my mind for a week or two. The feather has fallen, perhaps, from the wings of friends I’ve watched fly out the open windows of churches over the years.
Sitting with a new friend over coffee, the image takes shape. He tells me how he’s tried to leave his faith behind, but has remained within its ever-expanding walls. The problem is Jesus, he tells me.
He just cannot get over Jesus. Jesus sticks. Like a feather, I think.
We think of stickiness as unpleasant. Oppressive. A jacket with a stuck zipper. A tongue frozen to a sign post. Old pop on a theatre floor. None of these help me in describing my friend’s magnetic pull towards Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
But there are also things that stick for their lightness. Pick up a feather and you may discover it very hard to release. You grab it off with the other hand only to find it has left the first fingers to transfer to others. It is still on you. Stuck with some invisible glue.
Perhaps we are all infused with this spiritual static cling?
As my friend tells me his blessed affliction, I remember the memoir of Bruce Cockburn. Through all of the pain and injustice laid upon his eyes, Cockburn has lost many connections to the mechanisms of religion. The heaviness has not stuck. But Jesus? Jesus still sticks. Still calls. Still draws. I remember comments from Gandhi, who liked Christ despite the Christians. I think of friends past and present who are not sure why they are still here, in churches and schools and nonprofit organizations with increasingly incompatible ideologies. They are unsure of staying, but not ready to leave. Bound by some connection to this Jesus.
His burden, some say, is light as a feather.
The right metaphor? I’m still not sure. But it won’t leave me be. So let’s explore. Let’s pull the metaphor apart some.
It seems to me that a feather is more ‘sticky’ the purer it remains. A sullied feather carries the weight of dirt or oil or water. But a fresh, pure feather floats and sticks. The lighter it remains, the more it is drawn to the static.
The Holy Spirit is often referred to as a dove.
It is hard to think of a feather without picturing the bird it came from.
Angels are often pictured with wings of white feathers.
Tarred and feathered. Sticky to the extreme is not so pleasant.
"Birds of a feather flock together”, don’t you know.
Maybe I’m just crazy. Google certainly had nothing to corroborate my theory. Nothing to link Messiah to Feather. I did find a band called Feather Static, which ate up my top-level search results.
I also found this video demonstration for some sort of air purifier. I’m not sure what it proves, but for me it shows, at least, that feathers can indeed be very sticky.
Like any metaphor, the feather is not complete. Not perfect. But a metaphor is useful to the extent that it will amplify one aspect of its subject.
For me, this week, thinking of Jesus as a feather has been helpful. Healing, even. I thought I’d share these musings in case the feeling is mutual.
So now to you. Hold this metaphor. See if it sticks.
When you think of Jesus as feather-light, what does that do for your faith? Or doubt. What pictures come to mind? What personal histories to do you remember? How do you relate to this feather-Jesus? To this being inexplicably stuck to the Lord.