that's not a euphemism or a metaphor. it's not symbolism or allegory. what you will find below is a picture of a bird without a head. (and be warned: pictures of headless birds are pretty much as awful as you might imagine)
I was sitting at a picnic table while the kiddos played on some playground equipment. while they were swinging on the swings, I heard a thud just a few feet away. initially, I thought it was a rock that some small children who were also at the playground had thrown. as I gazed over in the area the noise came from, though, I realized the sound hadn't come from a rock, but from a bird. I thought that was kind of strange, to be sure, but I kept on doing what I was doing.
and this is the part that gets me.
at the time the bird - I didn't at this point know it had been beheaded - fell, I had been praying. the sum of my prayers was something like: I get that I'm supposed to trust you, God, but nothing is going the way I want or the way we need or the way I think it should. why aren't you doing anything, Lord? how can you let these things happen? and why won't you let other things happen, things for which we've been yearning and praying and dreaming and crying?
and so the other small kids left, the sun began to set, and I told my kids it was time to go. as we left, the daughter exclaimed, "this bird doesn't have a head!" incredulous, I went over to get a closer look. and for some reason, I laughed. actually, I think I gasped and then I told the daughter to move back because I've been raised to believe that dead birds are easily the dirtiest thing on the face of the planet, and if you touch one you'll not only get black death but you'll spread it to the rest of the world with every last wheezing breath you take. but after all that, i did laugh, the sort of quiet chuckle one does when one realizes things mean something more, or something different, or something else, than you thought.
I had this reaction, I think, because I was in that moment reminded of a couple things. I remembered how the bible tells us that not even a bird falls out of the sky without God knowing. seeing that once living, once flying thing, I thought about how I mattered to God, but I also thought about how trusting him sometimes means that I'm going to fall, too, not because I've stopped trusting but because I've decided to trust him no matter what.
I also in my mind's eye thought of God, sitting in heaven, growing tired of my constant grousing, thinking to himself, "that boy has gone on long enough. maybe this'll do the trick." cue headless bird dropping from the sky. and it worked. (for awhile, anyway.)
I know God knows me. I know he sees me. I know I matter more to him than the birds of the air, and just as he knows when one of his birds falls from flight, so too he knows when one of his kids has just about had enough.
tonight, remembering that he remembers, knowing he knows, noticing that he takes notice, is exactly what I need.
the headless bird I could have probably done without. but then that's not my call, is it?