Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Learning to fly...

So, today has not been such a great day so far. Rather, it has been a day of reckoning, you might say. I am finally waving the white flag of surrender where my Jeep is concerned, and I have arranged for the bank to come here and "secure the vehicle" this afternoon. A very nice way of saying that my vehicle is being repossessed today.

This certainly is not how I anticipated that things would work out. I did not anticipate that, three months after the fact, I would still be unemployed after leaving CMH. I did not anticipate...any of this. I knew it was a possibility, but I thought...No, God will not let that happen. He will provide.

Last night, during my time with God, I read Exodus 19:4. God is speaking to the Israelites, and says, "You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on eagle's wings and bringing you to Myself..."

The Bible makes a lot of references to eagles, and the lessons we learn from them as they are taught to fly. I remember a few years ago, I heard a pastor make a reference to how eagles are taught to fly, in which she claimed that eagles learn to fly by riding on their mother's back, ascending to tremendous heights, then being dropped. Just before the eaglet is dashed against the jagged earth below, the mother eagle swoops down, catches her baby, and again takes her to those breathtaking heights...and drops her again. This is done repeatedly, until the eaglet finally learns that by spreading her wings, she will soar, and be spared a certain death.

Honestly, I am often skeptical of illustrations that pastors use in their sermons, as I sometimes think Christendom as a whole reaches a bit far to make its point. So, ever the inquisitor, I looked this up for myself. God obviously thought that eagles had something to teach us, particularly through their flight habits, and I wanted to know what the big deal was.

After a bit of Googling, I found some very interesting information, and it was confirmed on several websites about eagles, particularly bald eagles.

Apparently, the process of learning to fly begins long before the "fly or die" flight the eaglet takes with its mother.

The process begins with making the nest uncomfortable for the eaglet. The safe, soft warmth of the nest so carefully built by the parents is slowly deconstructed until little is left of the next except the most bare necessities, hardly comfortable. Throughout all of this, however, the eaglet is still being fed regularly by its parents. Its basic needs are still being met.

Then, it seems that just as the eaglet is fairly comfortable enough with its surroundings and feeding arrangement, a crucial moment comes and...the eaglet is left alone in the nest. The parents stop bringing its food, despite its desperate cries to be fed. The parents often fly by the nest, in view of the eaglet, but their talons are empty and offer no relief to the hungry eaglet.

The eaglet, growing thinner, takes whatever scraps it can find through the remainder of the nest. As the days pass, the eaglet grows thinner, but becomes quicker in its movements, playfully approaching the edge of the nest, sometimes even being airborne for a moment or two if a gust of wind catches it just right.

At this point, the eagles will feed the eaglet now and then...perhaps just enough to leave him wanting more. There the eaglet stands at the edge of the nest, watching as his parent approaches, carrying in its talons a meal that the eaglet desperately needs. There stands the eaglet, flapping his wings, teetering on the edge of the nest, screaming for food. And what does mom or dad do? They pass, just out of reach.

Throughout all of this, the eaglet's down is being replaced with feathers. Down is soft and warm, but does little good for flying. The eaglet is hungry and thin, but is maturing, growing stronger and more swift.

And then, it happens...The eagle comes by, once again carrying food in its talons. The eaglet again stands there, screaming for food, perhaps nearly losing his balance as the food passes by so closely, yet out of reach...The eagle passes again, closer this time, a delicious meal dangling from his talons. The eaglet watches as the eagle rides the wind, and in a moment, the eaglet is airborne himself. For the first time in the eaglet's life, he is gliding, using his strength to reach toward the very thing he needs. The eagle drops the meal he'd been carrying, and the eaglet angles downward and makes a clumsy landing, and, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, he eats until he has had his fill.

Interstingly, 40% of eaglets do not survive their first flight. They do not grasp the concept that they must open their wings to fly, and instead succumb to fear and panic as what seems like certain doom approaches.

But for those who do learn...They begin with short flights, while their parents are still providing their food. Through trial and error, they learn the finer points of flight. The eaglet will learn how to hunt by watching its parents, and by the time the eaglet is ready to leave the nest, its days of clumsy flight are has learned how to soar in the majestic ways we read about, or see pictures of, and it has become an expert hunter.

But none of this would have happened if it had not been made absolutely desperate for food. And perhaps that is how we as Christians are taught to fly...God takes everything we rely on, until we are left with nothing else to reach for except God Himself. All the things outside of Him that we look to for peace and comfort are removed, until God alone is our provider. And in order to soar on wings like eagles, we have to take that first step out of all that we know, feel the terror of the fall, and the wings of faith, and glide on His promises.

In the last few months, I've had many things taken, and many things I've had to let go of. Things that I thought were mine, I quickly realized never really belonged to me at all, as God owns everything. In all the pain of things I understand, and things I cannot begin to explain, I see that God is teaching me to fly.

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