I watch birds. My favorite birds are great big ones like American bald eagles. I live in an area where fish are plentiful, so I frequently see eagles. My other favorite birds are little bitty ones. The smallest birds I get to see are the ruby-throated hummingbirds.
Hummers are fascinating birds. They eat small insects and flower nectar. I see them because I put out sugar water in hanging feeders. They hum by, sometimes fighting among themselves for prime spots at my feeders. They can hover and fly in any direction, even in reverse at speeds that simply blur their wing moments. Their migration story is nothing short of amazing. And, they are beautiful.
On a recent summer morning, I saw this, the shadow of a hummingbird projected on the Venetian blinds in our living room. It intrigued me watching that shadow come and go. So, iPhone always at the ready, I caught this photo.
That snapshot reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ biographical movie, Shadowlands. After the loss of his wife, Joy, he comforted her two sons, and himself, with the reminder that this present life is only shadows. The real things are yet to come.
Shadows are mentioned in the Scriptures numerous times. Sometimes, shadows are just shadows like in 2 Kings 20:9. Sometimes shadows carry the connotation of protection as in Psalm 17:8. Sometimes shadows are foreboding and represent death as in Psalm 23:4. And then, sometimes, shadows are a dim preview of what is to come.
The writer of Hebrews explained that even the Law was a shadow of the good things yet to come. The sacrifices at the tabernacle and the temple were not the truest form of reality (Hebrews 10:1). Paul agreed in Colossians 2:17 that these shadows only suggested the greater reality found in Christ Jesus.
On that summer morning, I grew dissatisfied watching the mere shadow of the hummingbird, so I went outside on the porch and watched that flying jewel dash back and forth. The tiny feathers of iridescent reds, greens, blacks, and whites glittered. The air was filled with faint humming. That shadow I observed in the house was nothing compared to the reality of the hummingbird.
Life gives us great pleasures. Sometimes it visits deep sorrows on us as well. But each of these are but shadows of the joys awaiting us when we will live with our Savior in all His resplendent glory. Shadows will pass away to reveal a greater reality, a more reasonable and logical reality, a more beautiful reality. The curse of sin which required the Law will be ended. These shadows here will flee from the light of Glory there.
So, take hope. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossian 3:1-4 ESV)