My fascination with eagles began when I was around ten years old. I remember sitting in awe as the guest evangelist at the Pentecostal church we were attending described the power and majesty of an eagle soaring and how that power and majesty described a life spent trusting in God based on the words of the prophet Isaiah. Although I cannot recall anything specific mentioned in that sermon from over thirty years ago, I do know that from the day forward I was captivated by the words found in Isaiah 40:31:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Since that time, eagles have been displayed by multiple printed photos, posters, and ceramic figures over the years to the point that to this day I still have a 4″ figurine sitting on my desk in front of my computer monitor which has followed me to my last three jobs. As I shared in Roller Coaster of Waiting, I proudly wear a daily reminder of Isaiah’s words on my arm. Recently a friend shared with me a Facebook video about eagles and how they react when a storm is approaching. The eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to arrive. As the winds come, the eagle simply moves it wings allowing the wind to pick it up and lift it above the storm. Although the video lasted no more than a minute, it caused more of a reaction than simply the moisture in my eyes as it reminded me of something other than the scientific facts about my beloved bird of prey. I was reminded that I still want to fly.
Though I’ve been unable to determine the original author, I recall the following fable about a baby eagle:
A baby eagle became orphaned when something happened to his parents. He glided down to the ground from his nest but was not yet able to fly. A man picked him up. The man took him to a farmer and said, “This is a special kind of barnyard chicken that will grow up big.” The farmer said, “Don’t look like no barnyard chicken to me.” “Oh yes, it is. You will be glad to own it.” The farmer took the baby eagle and placed it with his chickens.
The baby eagle learned to imitate the chickens. He could scratch the ground for grubs and worms too. He grew up thinking he was a chicken.
Then one day an eagle flew over the barnyard. The eagle looked up and wondered, “What kind of animal is that? How graceful, powerful, and free it is.” Then he asked another chicken, “What is that?” The chicken replied, “Oh, that is an eagle. But don’t worry yourself about that. You will never be able to fly like that.”
And the eagle went back to scratching the ground. He continued to behave like the chicken he thought he was. Finally he died, never knowing the grand life that could have been his.
When things you’ve believed without question begin to cause more uncertainty, doubt, questions, and even pain, than you are able to settle, it is quite a life changing process. Questions about who you are, what’s really true, and why you do things are not answered quickly or easily, and sometimes not even at all. The unraveling of life as a churchboy has been a process of internally traveling through memories, thoughts, and at times accusations mentally sandblasting the very core of who I am. It’s been a journey of constant questioning of am I saying this or acting this way because of who I truly am or because of what I’ve been taught and conditioned to believed. This deconstruction has been painful, lonely, and the most unsettling experience I’ve yet to encounter. There have been times it seems it would have been less painful and more peaceful to simply abandon the process and return to life as I knew it, but returning to that life meant dying as a chicken when I was meant to be an eagle.
Based on the translation listed above and the one embedded in memory, the only thing Isaiah says is required to mount with wings as eagles is to wait on the Lord. Prior to this journey of the last few years, my favorite picture the word wait painted is of a waiter/waitress which we refer to now more commonly as simply a server. If you need more water, your cup is refilled. If you request special food preparations, the server communicates those to the chef. A server ensures all your needs or requests are satisfied during your dining experience. As a churchboy I believed, taught, and preached it was our duty act as a server to God. We had to work and strive to ensure He was completely satisfied and all His desires and requests were met. Doing so would be the only way we could truly soar as eagles. I’ve recently been introduced to a new word picture of the word wait which resonated deep within me. In the fitness world, there is an exercise which has increased in popularity in recent years known as planking. Planking is a strength exercise that involves maintaining a position for the maximum possible time. The plank strengthens the abs, back, and shoulders. Though it looks simple to execute, those who participate attest to the difficulty, fatigue, and even soreness which sets in stretching muscles that often go unused or used very little. The longer I am on the journey of churchboy recovery, I find myself mentally and spiritually planking simply waiting on what’s to come.
As a musician, there are times you sit in front of your instrument fiddling over with a riff, chord, or melody repeatedly simply knowing a song resides within. Nearly twenty-five years ago, I sat day after day at a piano repeating a pattern eight notes alternating between chords. What came forth was a simple song which those closest to me know as a description of who I desire to be. So much a part of who I am, it was crafted, framed and gifted to me to display:
Eagles soar above storms and fly with little to no effort. Though my life looks much different now than it once did, my heart’s main desire hasn’t changed. I want to be an eagle and I still want to fly.