By Rev. Rosemary Welch
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness…Matthew 4:1
My parents weren’t at all into dogs or cats in the house. Thus “Perky” was my first pet, a parakeet given to me on my 10th birthday. Though it’s life was only a couple of years, no gift was ever such a surprise nor had made me happier.
Then, some many many decades later, after I’d graduated college, gotten married, had children who had gotten married, had grandchildren, and graduated Wesley Seminary, another parakeet was introduced into my life. I was newly ordained and moving to my first appointment in southern Virginia. It was a place as foreign as I ever could have imagined. It was “wilderness” of a sort, for me.
My Mom was with me at my ordination and for that move. Prior to leaving Reston for the brand new parsonage that had just been completed, my Mom made me an offer. She wanted to buy me a parakeet to take to Charlotte Court House. She said something like, “it’d be good to have some company out there in the country.” I’d not even thought of such a need. But as we tend to do, even in our later years, we listen to our Moms. They often (always?) seem to see beyond “the immediate” and even a little into the future better that we can. And I deeply sensed that when she made the offer.
So the day before I moved, with my car already stuffed from window to window, I went with my Mom to PetSmart. There we found a very small (thus newly hatched?) and beautiful white parakeet. I named her “Sophie”, short for Sophia meaning “God’s wisdom”. Sophie moved with me from Reston to Charlotte Court House, VA. It was a three-point charge, meaning it was 3 churches (one had ~80 in worship, another ~30 and the other ~12) to which was appointed one pastor. Every Sunday I preached at two churches: the largest one every Sunday, and one of the smaller ones every other Sunday. I was greeted every time I came “home” with a few shrill notes from Sophie. And Sophie loved the view from the kitchen window of that newly built parsonage.
Sophie moved with me next to Fredericksburg where she resided with me in the oldest Methodist parsonage in Virginia. While thee, she sang to the clattering of dishes in the kitchen. It was during this appointment that my Mom died in Texas, but Sophie sang on. Then we both went to Richmond where she lived on a counter near a window.. From there she could see and fuss at the neighbor’s cat when it came near our back steps. Then we moved to Charlottesville where she lived near a front window and sang with birds in a nearby tree.. And then I retired back to Reston, bringing with me loads of books … and Sophie. She sang every mile of the journey , any time she heard music or someone singing, and any time there were guests. And then she sang all the way back to Reston.. She was with me for 16+ years. Quite a lifespan for a parakeet! Quite a journey I had with a small white creature who sang to and with me her whole life long. And quite an intuitive gift to be given, “God’s wisdom.”
Though no wilderness we experience could ever be like the wilderness Jesus was led into, I believe we go through such times and often find them to be full of more unknowns and temptations than we ever could have imagined. But there are also people who probably have been there before us. And they offer wisdom that we somehow know we can trust. And some of those persons can be found in our families, our friends, our church, and in strangers. Sometimes it’s someone older than we are. But sometimes it’s not.
I’ve learned to keep my eyes open so I might recognize that accompanying wisdom most especially in the sometimes quite dark unknowns.