I work on the 18th floor of a 22-story building. (Twenty-one, if you don’t count the 13th floor.) Despite a horrible “open” seating arrangement, there’s a window about three paces from my chair. It has a great view of the local airport, a freeway, and part of a movie studio. Also, the sky. Since I’m so high, there are no other buildings blocking my view.
Nearly every day for the past several weeks, if I’m paying attention at just the right time, I can see a hawk soaring just outside the window. I imagine she has a nest on the roof of the building, because she doesn’t stray far on her mid-afternoon recess times. She is a gorgeous creature, and I can’t help but stare at her in those privileged few moments.
The other day I glanced up and caught her at the beginning of her play time. There must have been a nice breeze, because she did not have to do more than simply move a single wingtip ever so slightly to change not only her direction, but her altitude. I watched her for several minutes, and not once did she flap her wings. Instead, she found thermal after thermal (a warm air current) that allowed her to make large lazy circles that gently elevated her. As I watched, I was reminded of our own concept here of adding upon – to learn upwards, strengthening things we already know. It’s how you describe the feeling when you know something and even have a testimony of it, coupled with knowledge wrapped up in the testimony, and a testimony wrapped up in knowledge, until it spirals you upwards.
But I’m Not a Bird!
You might think that taking a step forward in faith, or being elevated upwards like the hawk was, is for people who already have faith. Mother Teresa, widely considered to be one of the greatest spiritual leaders in the 20th century, wrote in a letter in 1953, “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask Our Lord to give me courage.”
The response from her friend Archbishop Périer was encouraging: “God guides you, dear Mother; you are not so much in the dark as you think. The path to be followed may not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons. You will always find something to help you. … Guided by faith, by prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough.” [In Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light; The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, ed. Brian Kolodiejchuk (2007), 149–50; punctuation standardized.] (As quoted by Rosemary Wixom, April 2015 General Conference.)
Maybe it’s not finding the upward thermal breeze that’s a problem – maybe it’s just finding the time, energy, desire, and faith to leap off that building to begin with.
You Have to Try If You Want to Fly
Elevating our spiritual knowledge and faith doesn’t require great efforts, but it does require that we at least be willing to try. The hawk, though she was hundreds of feet in the air, had no fear about falling, because it is in her nature to fly. I believe it is in all of our nature to fly also. Too often though, we make the mistake of looking down and think about all the things that can go wrong instead.
I’m pretty sure that this hawk never once had a lesson in aerodynamics, or thermodynamics, or the physiology of her wing and bone structure that allows her to fly. What she does do is listen to her instincts that tell her flying is what she is meant to do. And so she does. She stretches her wings, flaps gently once or twice to catch the necessary breeze, then lets nature take its course.
Of course she controls her direction by making subtle movements with the right feathers. She leans with her body into the breeze, though – she does not fight it. Rather, she finds the right upward spiral and lets it carry her upward, always upward. With minimal effort, she is elevated.
We all have the potential of the hawk, or rather, we have the spiritual potential to soar upwards with just the right amount of effort.
Learning to Soar Upwards
“We fail only if we fail to take another faithful step forward. We will not, we cannot, fail if we are faithfully yoked to the Savior—He who has never failed and will never fail us!” (Randall K. Bennett, “Your Next Step,” October 2015.)
And in Moroni 7:33 Christ Himself promises us, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”
Trust. Believe that you are made to fly and soar. Trust that just as the unseen air currents cushioned and elevated the hawk upwards, so will the Savior cushion you and raise you up.
Take the leap and fly.