I hear the sound of his cooing and the wind vibrating through his feathers. The male dove is inviting the monogynous mate he’ll wed for life to come to him. It is not the solemn sound of mourning or even the southing sound of restful dreaming, but rather the sound of what we humans call love.
When two turtle doves were sacrificed in the temple of old, a little and new human life was being dedicated to the God who is love (Luke 2:23-24; 1 John 4:8). The Latin name, “Turtur” was slurred over time into turtle, but the specific epithet turtur is one of the correct designations for the turtle dove. Sometimes they go by their nickname, mourning doves. This nickname was for a sound associated with sadness and is not satisfactory to me. I do not hear the sadness in the calls they make every morning. They do not mourn every morn. That’s not what they are doing. I hear a call to life because I know that the response to the dove’s coo will be a new dove when the egg cracks. I hear an appeal to the shalom of God through Jesus because I choose to pray when I hear it. It is a reminder to me. I hear an invitation from the Holy Spirit to draw near and meditate on the Bible. I hear a proposal to enter into the discipline of study and ruminate on the substance of the Word of God. It beckons. The cooing is like a beacon of life. It is like the morning light. The mercies of God are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I hear God’s promise in the cooing. His entreat is for me to endorse Him with the signature of my movements and the engravings of my thoughts. It is like it casts a spell when the echo reverberates from tree to me. When it resounds across the moist morning air, the Holy Spirit uses its tone to petition my heart to commit my way to the Lord and to trust him with my minutes and months. It raises up the remembrance in me of God’s commitment to cover my days from dawn to noon to eventide (Psalm 37:5-6) and to hold on to me with a firm relentless grasp (John 10:29).
And then the cooing of the evening is a proposition to rest in the comfort of His presence. It is a peaceful sound. As the sun falls toward the western hills and is greeted by the early pale — almost translucent — moon, if the dove mourned for anything it would grieve for the shortness of the life that its trademark identifies as having ceased. But it is neither mourning nor separated from its spouse. Neither can we be separated from God’s definitive love for us. When the day ends, we can take our last waking breaths in the confidence that we will continue to breath in our sleep until the day that has been appointed for us to join the shepherd of our souls (Psalm 139). We can pray with the Psalmist, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night’ — even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you (Psalm 139:11-12 CSB). “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8 NASB).
Jesus said to the disciples and it is true for every Christian today. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). I elect to use the hearing of the dove song with my ear to listen to the Holy Spirit sing to my heart. You can select a constant sound or sight to remind you to pray; and I hope you will.