In the middle of (the city’s) main street, and on each side of the river, was a tree of life bearing twelve fruits, which were produced month by month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev 22:2.
I am told that the following story is true,1 but even if it is only a parable, it touches my heart with a glimpse of what the healing of the nations is all about.
On the Eastern shore of Maryland, the gentle waters run in and out like fingers. The Canadian geese know this place, as do the white swans and the ducks who ride an inch above the waves of Chesapeake Bay as they skim their way into harbor. In the autumn, by the thousands, they come home for the winter. The swans move toward the shores in a stately glide, their tall heads proud and unafraid. And there is, between the swans and the geese, an indifference, almost a disdain.
Once or twice each year, snow and sleet move into the area. When this happens, if the river is narrow enough or shallow enough, there is a freeze which hardens the water to ice. It was on such a morning that a woman looked out of her window as the snow laced the rim of the river’s shore in white. For a moment she stood quietly, looking at the picture that the night’s storm had painted. Suddenly she realized there was a goose in the river, very still, its wings folded tight to its sides, its feet frozen to the ice.
Then she saw a line of swans in the dark skies. As the woman watched, the leader swung to the right, then the white string of birds became a white circle. It floated from the top of the sky downward. At last, as easy as feathers coming to earth, the circle landed on the ice. As the swans surrounded the frozen goose, she feared what life he still had might be pecked out by those large swan bills. Instead, those bills began to work on the ice. After some time, the goose was rimmed by a narrow margin of ice instead of the entire creek. The goose’s head lifted. Its body pulled. Then the goose was free and standing on the ice.
Then, as if he had cried “I cannot fly,” four of the swans approached again. Their powerful beaks scraped the goose’s wings from top to bottom and nibbled up its body, chipping off and melting the ice held in the feathers. Slowly, as if testing, the goose spread its wings as far as they would go, brought them together, accordion- like, and spread again. With the goose out of danger, the swans resumed their eastward journey, in perfect formation. Behind them, rising with incredible speed and joy, the goose moved into the sky. He followed them, flapping double time, until he caught up and joined the last end of the line. The woman watched until they were out of sight, tears running down her cheeks.