Eagles learning to fly

I looked at some pictures of eagles recently perched on branches and soaring in the heavens and wondered how they made the transition?

Spent some time laughing at the prospect of eagles clinging tightly to their perches spreading their wings and pretending to soar. Wanting the security of their feet on the ground but also longing to know what it would be like to fly free and soar high. The problem we were chuckling about was that an eagle can’t perch and fly at the same time…. we all know that! They have to let go of the perch, flap their wings, and experience the upward rising invisible thermals that hold them aloft with minimal effort.

When we used that picture as a metaphor for our own experience as followers of Jesus the eagles became us and their predicament of wavering between perching and soaring was painfully familiar. Then one considers the early development of an eagle and the reason for it being a biblical symbol of the prophetic and an example of trusting the Lord becomes clear. When an eagle is born is does not know how to fly or hunt; it has no instinctive sense of it’s identity or destiny. It learns by imprinting – which means that a young eagle learns by observing….

One writer observes: “Like the eagles, a Christian’s foundations of learning to fly and hunt must be learned, and the adoptive parents play an important part in this. Flying in a Christian’s life is faith to rise above circumstances. Hunting is searching for the manna or bread from heaven, to grow strong and healthy. At first the role models feed the young, then they must learn to find food for themselves. “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)”

In the beginning of Deuteronomy Moses gathered the people of Israel together to review their history and God’s faithfulness to them while they wandered in the desert for 40 years. The book begins with him announcing to them that it was time to break camp and enter into the Promised Land inhabited by the same people of whom they were afraid ‘way back then’. The land and inhabitants had not changed but they had – their wandering and time for reflection (and the death of some of the leaders) had given them a renewed sense of resolve and purpose – and courage.

How about your walk, or flight, with the Lord? Are you perched or soaring? Have you experienced the thrill of riding thermals and knowing God’s faithfulness first hand? Have you laid hands on a sick person and seen them healed, spoken to someone who does not know Jesus and watched their hearts turn, received a word of knowledge that has unlocked someone and opened them to the love of God the Father? Do you know the power and presence of the person of the Holy Spirit? That’s what you’re born for… to be light and salt in a world that is dark and tasteless without the love of Jesus. The reality is that virtually all of us are born into a world where our sense of identity and purpose has been lost. We live with an imprint that is false and less than God purposed for us. Fortunately that realization is not the end of the story. Jesus entered into our world to enable us to experience a re-birth with a new imprint;  when our eyes are fixed on him we change.

I love the bible because it describes people like me and gives me hope. I want to live in the Promised Land and I long to soar on thermals – but it’s the process of getting there and becoming what I am not yet that gets in the way. Seems that the journey to becoming involves risk and trust and some degree of effort. Eagles don’t learn to let go of their perches, flap, hunt, and soar without going through a challenging process themselves.

Frances Hamerstrom spent many years studying wildlife and wrote this observation of a fledgling eagle learning to fly … It’s a great picture of how God can use our discomfort to overcome…..

“The…..eaglet was now alone in the nest. Each time a parent came flying in toward the nest he called for food eagerly; but over and over again, it (the parent) came with empty feet, and the eaglet grew thinner. He pulled meat scraps from the old dried-up carcasses lying around the nest. He watched a sluggish carrion beetle, picked it up gingerly, and ate it. His first kill.

Days passed, and as he lost body fat he became quicker in his movements and paddled ever more lightly when the wind blew, scarcely touching the nest edge; from time to time he was airborne for a moment or two.

Parents often flew past and sometimes fed him. Beating his wings and teetering on the edge of the nest, he screamed for food whenever one flew by. And a parent often flew past just out of reach, carrying delectable meals: a half-grown jack rabbit or a plump rat raided from a dump. Although he was hungry almost all the time, he was becoming more playful as he lost his baby fat; sometimes, when no parent bird was in sight, he pounced ferociously on a scrap of prairie dog skin or on old bits of dried bone.

The male eaglet stayed by himself for the most part. He was no longer brooded at night. Hunger and the cold mountain nights were having their effect, not only on his body but on his disposition. A late frost hit the valley, and a night wind ruffled his feathers and chilled his body. When the sunlight reached the eyrie’s (the brood in a nest of a bird of prey) edge, he sought its warmth; and soon, again, he was bounding in the wind, now light and firm-muscled.

A parent flew by, downwind, dangling a young marmot in its feet. The eaglet almost lost his balance in his eagerness for food. Then the parent swung by again, closer, upwind, and riding the updraft by the eyrie, as though daring him to fly. Lifted light by the wind, he was airborne, flying–or more gliding–for the first time in his life. He sailed across the valley to make a scrambling, almost tumbling landing on a bare knoll. As he turned to get his bearings the parent dropped the young marmot nearby. Half running, half flying he pounced on it, mantled, and ate his fill.” (An Eagle to the Sky” (1970)).

I’m sure you can draw your own lessons and conclusions from that story of ‘first flight’. I want to encourage you to identify where you are hungry and what the Lord is saying to you about stretching out and taking flight. Be willing to take some risks and experience a little fear and trepidation – know that millimeters beyond your present horizon is the thrill of soaring that will release you into places you never imagined you would ever find yourself!

Check out this video of a French trainer teaching an eagle to fly again…..

John Cox

Offering Pastoral Counselling to encourage, heal, transform, and give hope.

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