Text and art by I. Lilias Trotter

The martens have been reading me a faith lesson. They come in flights at this time of year – lovely things with blue throats and feathered claws – one slept in my room last night and another darted in at the open window before I was up, swept round and out again.

Their faith lesson is this – that their wings need the sense of “an empty void” below to give them a start – their leg muscles have no spring in them and when they perch by accident on a level place they are stuck fast – poor things, we did not know that natural history fact in the past and when we have found them on our flat Algier roof with its parapet protection, we have thought they had got hurt somehow, and more than once we have tried to feed them till they died, instead of doing the one thing that they needed – tossing them off into emptiness.

So we need not wonder if we are not allowed to stay long in level sheltered places – our faith wings are like the martens and mostly need the gulf of some emergency to give them their start on a new flight. We will not fear when we feel empty air under them.

“As an eagle… fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them on her wings – so the Lord alone did lead him.” Fluttereth over – the early stages of faith are reaching upward, like the eaglets for their food when the mother-bird is overhead… it is an older faith that learns to swing out into nothingness and drop down full weight on God – the broken up nest of former “experiences” left behind – nothing between us and the abyss but Himself – A rejoicing in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true – The Lord Alone – that is trained faith.

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