My family and I are in Galveston for a vacation before school starts. Now, I will be the first to confess that the water of the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston Island is not the most beautiful I have ever seen, nor is the beach, but Galveston is a wonderful city, and there is something special about sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, feeling the warm breeze and watching the birds—the seagulls, the sandpipers and the pelicans. I’ve always been enamored by the pelicans that fly gracefully over the Gulf of Mexico.
Perhaps my fascination is because of the ancient story of the mother pelican as a symbol of Christ. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with her beak, to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. You can see, given these legends, why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize Jesus Christ.
On this trip, however, I noticed something else. As I watched the pelican glide over the water I noticed them fishing. I love to watch as they dive from the sky into the water. Bam! They hit the water and go under. Now, the Gulf of Mexico, particularly here in Galveston, is not the clearest water. In fact, even with a diving mask on you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Still, the pelicans dive, perhaps not knowing what is there. Or, perhaps, they see what we cannot see, or sense what we cannot sense, the fish that they seek. I can’t help but see this as a symbol of faith.
In the ancient Hebrew language the word for “faith” actually translates as “trust.” This means that faith is not an intellectual ascent of some theological premise, but an act of trust in God. So, our faith is about, as the writer of the Proverbs tells us, trusting in the Lord with all our heart and not relying on our own insight. Perhaps we can take a lesson from the pelicans, trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls that God will provide for us and be with us and show us the way, even when we cannot see where we are going.
Holy One, I can’t, you must, I’m yours, show me the way. Amen.
-a prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero