Saturday, January 4, 2020
Mourning Doves, or Morning Doves?
As I swam at dusk in the secluded pool at our island getaway, a flock of mourning doves sprang up from secret hiding places – the hibiscus bushes along the fence, the pool’s edge just beyond my line of sight, from within the tall pines. They fluttered around the pool in an excited whirl, congregated near the deep end as if to cheer on my laps, then settled on a nearby rooftop.
Mourning doves are so named because of their sorrowful, lamenting song. Some males may have a pink or rust-colored stain on their chest, reminiscent of a bleeding heart. Their sudden appearance saddened me at first, bringing to mind the unexpected deaths of so many friends, church members, public figures, and acquaintances in recent times.
Some of these deaths were expected and even a blessing, like that of the elderly woman with Alzheimer’s who could no longer recognize her own family. Others were shocking tragedies, like the young, active dance professional who was struck by a car while he was standing in the street in front of his house.
It reminded me that our earthly life can vanish before our eyes like a puff of smoke, for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14). Those who procrastinated with their salvation, assuming they would have plenty of time to have their intellectual questions answered, or to “clean up their act” before coming to Christ, will spend eternity in hell if death caught them unawares.
Now is the accepted time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), and those who put it off risk quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and having their conscience seared, to the point that they can no longer recognize that they are sinners in need of a Savior (1 Timothy 4:2; Psalm 95:8; John 12:40; Hebrews 3:8,14).
Even for those of us who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we may find ourselves on death’s doorstep regretting what we have left undone, particularly missing service or witnessing opportunities God offered to us, or allowing fear or distractions to keep us from walking through doors He has opened (Hebrews 12:1).
And yet, the appearance of the doves, their lively cooing, and the musical whistling of their wings in flight, was more of a blessing to me than a harbinger of gloom. It reminded me that God can turn our mourning into singing and dancing (Isaiah 51:11; Psalm 30:11). Weeping may persist through the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
The prophet Isaiah described his sorrow as the mourning of a dove (Isaiah 38:14; 59:11; Ezekiel 7:16), yet the upward flight of a dove symbolizes salvation and transformation from earthly sadness to Heaven’s joy-filled glory (Psalm 55:6; 68:13; Isaiah 60:8).
Doves call to mind the Holy Spirit, descending on Jesus Christ in that form the moment He arose from the baptismal waters (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32); the deliverance of Noah from the global destruction of the flood (Genesis 8:8-12); and the sacrifice Mary and Joseph brought to obey God as they presented their Child at the temple (Luke 2:24).
Scripture often uses animals to teach us lessons about our desired character and behavior, such as the industriousness of the ant (Proverbs 6:6; 30:25), or the wisdom of the conies who recognize their own weakness and seek shelter in the rock (Proverbs 30:26). Jesus told His disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). Dove is used as a romantic term of endearment in Song of Solomon (1:15; 2:14; 4:1; 5:2,12; 6:9), so I began to interpret the flight of doves all around me as an encouraging message.
Even the “bleeding heart” of the mourning dove can be viewed as God telling His story through His creation, for without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Praise God that only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can wash away all our sins (Revelation 1:5), so that God the Father views His children as holy and sanctified, meriting an eternal home in Heaven not by our own works or righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9), but by the imputed righteousness of His Son! (Romans 3:22; 4:5,22; 5:17-21).