Flapping, Flailing, Flying


“I do believe that God made us to soar… that part of our responsibility this side of heaven is to flap our wings so we can make some wind for others to try to fly, too.”

FlappingSoar. When you think of that word, what comes to mind? For me, I think of a graceful eagle against a clear blue sky, wings spread, in its element, gliding through the sky with ease.

I’m not a bird lover, so I’m not the best at connecting with metaphors associated with them. However, when I heard about May’s theme for SheLoves, I remembered a conversation many years ago. A friend of mine was writing a book about healing, and haggled with her publisher who wanted her to use the word “soar” instead of “fly.” ” No one wants to just fly,” they said. “People want to soar.”

While I think inside all of us is a deep desire for “soaring,” the truth is that most days that feels pretty far off. Many of us would feel really happy to just get off the ground. To flap our wings, to get some wind underneath us that will carry us to a new place, to try something new, to feel more alive, to feel more loved, to feel a little more free.

Like so many other things in this world, words are relative. What might look easy for one person is incredibly hard for another. What might look insignificant to some might be a miracle to another. What looks like flapping, flailing, barely-flying for one is actually soaring for another.

I think about this a lot in the world of pain and healing that I live in at my little faith community,  The Refuge, and how we need to be so careful about measuring “success” against man-made (and sometimes church-made) measures about what freedom, healing, and change look like. We associate success with outward movement or something tangible we can see, when there might be so much more going on underneath the surface that can’t be measured.

I do believe that God made us to soar. That as women and men made in God’s image, we can live more freely and untethered, fueled by grace. That we weren’t made to be tied to piles of baggage that keep us from flight. That part of our responsibility this side of heaven is to flap our wings so we can make some wind for others to try to fly, too.

But it’s easy for me to get hung up on thinking that soaring is a long way off. That I might never get there, that it’s only for the most brave, the most talented, the most graceful.

Like so many other things, what helps me is to use the upside down and wild ways of Jesus to redefine what soaring might mean. Maybe instead of the imagery of an eagle weaving in the sky in perfect grace, some more honest and tangible imagery for soaring could look like this:

When we show up in relationships with our real selves instead of hiding or pretending.

When we offer grace, to ourselves and to others.

When we receive grace.

When we actually feel more comfortable in our own skin.

When we step out and try something we are really afraid to do.

When we choose love instead of hate.

When we stop to help someone in need, instead of rushing by.

When we love and respect our bodies, if even for a moment.

When we listen to someone else’s heart.

When we advocate for someone else.

When we let someone else advocate for us.

When we say our dream out loud.

When we take some kind of step toward our dream.

When we rest.

When we fan someone else’s hope into flame.

When we loosen our grip and trust God.

When we choose to forgive.

When we say no.

When we say yes.

When we flap our wings and try to fly—whatever that might mean for each of us in our own unique ways—instead of staying huddled and afraid in our nest.

Yeah, maybe that’s what soaring looks like, here, now—God’s flawed and beautiful people doing the best we can to flap and flail and fly and live and love and practice and try.