"Doves are Pigeons with Better PR"
My friend recently posted an article about confirmation bias- the article describes how we subconsciously search texts or research to gather data that supports or confirms an opinion we already hold as truth. The piece challenged me to consider my bias or presuppositions I bring to the Biblical text. I decided to re-read the gospels attempting to disregard who I think Christ is and carefully consider what the Gospel writers report about Him. I hope to share more of my ah-ha moments with you!
Anyway, I started in Mark and quickly stopped after verse 10, suddenly aware of the distorted picture that formed in my brain. Mark writes, "Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." I nearly darted past it, until I realized I had this image of a ginormous shiny, sparkly bird with organ music and Gregorian chanting in the background-
I figured if the heavens are torn apart, the dove would have some equal pizazz...light streaming from bedazzled white wings. But then I remembered the sweet doves who nested in our window boxes this spring, and watched over their babies.
And although, without doubt, beautiful creatures- they are merely birds. Can you imagine witnessing the heavens tear open just to see the Spirit descend as a small grey, easily missed bird? Wouldn't you expect a little more Hollywood style production? Yet, every gospel writer compares the Spirit to a simple dove. Actually, one bird website wrote, "doves are just pigeons with better PR." Mark 1:10 might evoke a different picture if it had read, "the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a pigeon." Pretty unremarkable, and maybe even a bit annoying if you live in a city.
Doves, like pigeons, are messengers by nature; in fact, they have been used in times of war to bring messages to leaders over hundreds of miles. One of Mark's central themes is introducing Jesus as King to the world. Soon after the Spirit's arrival, Jesus declares "The Kingdom of God has come near," and it's time to join the revolution. With the King's entrance, the battle begins against all the principalities of darkness, and Jesus performs miracle after miracle. But, it all starts with an unassuming dove-like Spirit bringing a message from heaven to the battlefront. As Scholar John Green puts it, "it may be that this simile is intended to evoke the symbolism of the dove as a herald or bearer of good tidings; this would advance the portrait of Jesus' empowerment to proclaim the good news. " In other words, the dove brings with it the message of the good news that Jesus is the anointed King. And just as Jesus is the unassuming carpenter, the Spirit descends like a simple, grey bird.
Although we see in Acts that the Spirit can "sound like the blowing of a violent wind" for me, the dove seems to reflect the quiet voice of the Spirit I experience. The sense in my heart that brings me messages of comfort, peace, love, and hope.
One more bit of Dove trivia- they mate for life. Their relationship is everlasting, much like the communion we have with the Spirit.
I think the doves in my window box are a more accurate image of the Spirit. They cared so beautifully for their children, provided for their needs and gave them courage to fly.