“Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.”
These are the opening lines in a poem called ‘Failing and Flying’ by Jack Gilbert. In this season of Lent when we focus on our sin and frailty, they are words of hope reminding me, a curate emerging fresh from the dust of Ash Wednesday, that they can still fly. That the Glory of the Christian life is not in sustained perfection, but in a cyclical process of flying and falling as we learn to trust God, in our lives, in our church and in our world. Gilbert’s poem reminds us that failure, and fear of it, mustn’t be allowed to clip our wings, or to blind us to the beauty and glory around us.
As God’s children we are drawn to the light and to the sun, our wings frail and mortal, like Icarus, are made of the ephemeral feathers of will, and the wax of our good intentions. So often our resolve melts as we get near the heat of the sun and we find ourselves falling headlong back to the earth. Unlike for Icarus, God is there to catch us, to strengthen our wings and increase our resolve. By his love we are transformed little by little into creatures that can fly further and faster, buoyed up by the winds of the Spirit and the healing touch of God. In our flying we in turn inspire those around us to flap their wings, to test the air and to fly along with us. Hope becomes more than a feathered thing “That perches in the soul” but a murmuration, swooping and soring, urging each other to the light. A sign for each other, and for the world, of the love of God and the beauty of redemption.