Build Your Nest
I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings. —Mary Oliver
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. —Jeremiah 17:8 (niv)
It was an exciting discovery that a pair of young eagles had chosen the lake a mile from my house to build their first nest and start a family. These magnificent birds stand two feet tall with a wingspan nearly the length of my old Suburban. Bald eagles mate for life and spend their entire life span constructing an exquisite nest. Unlike other avian friends who whip together a new nest each spring, bald eagles refine and expand theirs with every passing season. A first-year eagle’s nest measures six feet in circumference. After twenty years, this work of art exhibiting amazing creativity, determination, and faith nearly triples in size and weighs over a ton.
On a morning jog around Radnor Lake near my home in Nashville, I witnessed the male eagle proudly soaring over the lake with a six-foot branch in his talons (eagles can carry half their weight) to buttress his architectural marvel. Later that month, I saw a watch party had gathered around with a high-powered lens to film the newlywed eagles traversing the lake while clutching bright green moss, fern, and feathers to improve their masterpiece of a dwelling.
It is our lifelong mission and adventure to build a meaningful existence.
I am disillusioned by how our culture defines a successful life. Many are celebrated for having “made it,” but in settling for mile-wide, inch-deep lives, they can feel empty and full of regret. The key is learning how to live in the world without losing yourself to it. The silver lining of the pandemic was that many of us were awakened to the gap between the way we were living our daily lives and the lives our souls craved. An internal reckoning began as we realized nobody wants to wake up one day and have missed the real purpose in life.
Arthur Brooks, a social scientist, author, and professor at Harvard Business School, has dedicated his life’s work to studying what makes human beings truly happy. He says that culture tells us to love things, use people, and worship ourselves. Our souls tell us the exact opposite. Beautiful lives happen when we use things, love people, and worship the Divine. Before there were ladders to climb, promotions to score, reputations to seal, and bank accounts to fill, we had a soul, holy and with divine purpose. Ask yourself, what is holy about your existence? Are you a person only of the world? Or does your soul direct you to another path?
In other words, are you content with the nest you are building?
If not careful, we can spend the bulk of our days secretly dissatisfied, lost, and blue—smaller versions of ourselves. But a Jewish friend of mine once said, “If you eat life from your soul, you will be full.” A helpful guide is to construct one’s nest with spiritual materials that will not turn to dust: a morning walk in nature, the embrace of a child or lover, an evening of delicious food and laughter, moments of quiet and reflection absent of technology, regular soul-baring conversations with God, and many, many acts of kindness.
One activity for the soul a day is a worthy goal. Expect a more sacred existence.
The eagles of Radnor Lake cannot predict nor control what tomorrow holds. Neither can we. Each year, each season, brings new challenges and rewards, losses, and gains. The eagles’ and our days are numbered in the Book of Life. The time is now to feather our nests with the things that truly matter.
Love me into
who You know I can be,
a creative and
A prophet, a healer,
a fount of mercy,
a saving grace.
I am slow in my evolving,
stumbling in contradiction,
but ever hopeful that with You,
the Infinite can be revealed
in the finite of me.
My soul wondrously full.
Amen.Nest-Building Tips to Create a Soulfull Life
Time is precious. I am determined more than ever to squeeze all the nectar from this human experience. My soul wants more, and I believe yours does too. All we need to live the soulfull life is an open heart, a curious and resilient spirit, and a daily desire to live our best life. Following are six nest-building tips to get your foundation started.
Number 1: Spend Time in Nature
Put yourself regularly in the path of beauty. A good start is time spent in the mountains, by the ocean, in a forest or nearby park, or in your own backyard. The Bible opens in a garden and closes in a garden for a reason. Jesus chooses nature as a place to teach, to speak to God, to eat, to pray, to bless, to heal, to perform miracles, and to refresh himself for the demands of his mortal life. Nature reveals to us so much about God. The greenness, the blueness, the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the shade—all heal, even save us, one vignette of beauty at a time. When the world is too much, find a square inch of green and reset. As they say in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, “Bring the outside in.” Find an evergreen chapel and open yourself to the sacred.
Number 2: Build and Rebuild Relationships
Engagements with other human beings expose flaws, insecurities, and fragility. In the same breath, they can reveal the best in us and in others. Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables that our interactions with fellow human beings allow us to “see the face of God.” Mend, forgive, encourage, nurture, and sacrifice for the relationships that matter to us. Walk in another’s shoes to know where he or she has been and desperately hopes to be going. Take in all of this information and then sincerely engage. The goal is fewer duels and more prodigal homecomings.
Number 3: Break Bread Together
Something transcendent happens around the table. When we pull up the chairs, light the candles, and serve family, friends, and even strangers a roasted chicken, homemade pesto pasta, or a peach cobbler—what we are actually serving is love, mercy, and hope. Souls are being fed.
Number 4: Find Your Purpose and Go After It
Souljoy is found by going after something—a dream, a relationship, a passion. It might be cooking, writing, counseling, gardening, painting, parenting, singing, or inventing. The mission is to endeavor a life that is layered, colorful, and shining with meaning. Make your unique experience unforgettable.
Number 5: Grow and Evolve
Pablo Picasso said, “We don’t grow older, we grow riper.” Forget the age number! We are here to discover who we are and all we can be. Participate in many personal resurrections over a lifetime. Fail and then rise. Then do it again. Believe that something beautiful can be born and reborn from brokenness. Live in expectation of what marvelous thing God will do next in your life.
Number 6: Fall in Love
St. John of the Cross said, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Make it your life’s mission to fall in love with people, places, experiences, nature, yourself—but especially with God.