Our time at the Come Fill Your Cup retreat is spent in the Rocky Mountains outside of Denver. Being in nature always reminds me of Romans 1:19-20 where the Bible tells us that God has shown us His power and His very nature through the natural world. While we talk a lot about the power of God through His creation of the world, we don’t focus very often on how nature shows God’s attributes. I wanted to share some ways that God’s character and our Christian character is demonstrated through one of my favorite animals, the eagle.
Born That Way
You must be born an eagle. This seems kind of obvious, but the comparison needs to be made. Chickens, blue jays, crows… they will never be eagles. To be an eagle, you must be born an eagle. The same is true of us as Christians.
You must be born again to be a Christian. In John 3:3-5, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born of water and the Spirit”. You will NOT become a Christian unless you are born again by following these steps: born of water (baptism) and born of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). People do not become Christians any other way, nor do chickens become eagles unless they are born as such.
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
And makes his nest on high?
“On the cliff he dwells and lodges,
Upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
Eagles build their nests very high so they are difficult to reach. You usually find their nests on the side of a cliff or in the top of a really tall tree. This protects the young from predators and makes it easier to find food because the mother eagle can see a greater distance. Eagles build their nests out of limbs–not twigs–that they weave together to make one solid piece. An eagle’s nest is so well made that it can fall 200-300 feet and stay together! Eagles’ nests have been found that weight as much as 1,000 pounds. When the mother eagle is ready to lay her eggs, she lines the inside of her nest with leaves and feathers to make it as comfortable as possible for her future eaglets.
Once the eaglets are born, the mother eagle spends much of her time finding food for her young and bringing it back to the nest. She always feeds the eaglets in the same order. Scientists have even crawled down into the nest and rearranged the babies, but when the mother comes back she knows exactly whose turn it is to eat and continues in the correct order. This mother knows her children!
Learning to Soar
God knows us as well. Matthew 10:30 tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our head. God pays careful attention to His children. He does not forget about us. He knows who you are, deeply, personally, and in every way. Likewise, we should know Him. Jesus tells His disciples in John 10:4-5 that they should know His voice just like sheep know the voice of the shepherd. To do this we must have a deep personal relationship with Jesus as well. To be a Christian God must know you as one of His children, and you must know God as one of His followers.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
One day the mother eagle comes back to the nest, but she hasn’t brought any food for the babies. Instead she spreads her huge wings and just hovers about three feet above the nest. She is giving her children their first lesson in flight by teaching them what their wings are for; they must be taught how to be an eagle. We also must be taught how to be Christians, how to act like Jesus. We do this through Bible study, learning from older women (Titus 2:3-5), and, hopefully, from our family like Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). Being a Christian does not come naturally, we must learn, and teach others, to imitate Christ.
Next, the mother eagle begins to nudge one of the eaglets closer and closer to the edge of the nest until it goes over the side and falls. Remember, an eagle’s nest is usually hundreds of feet in the air, so this baby is free-falling toward the ground. If the eaglet does not begin to fly, then the mother eagle dives toward the ground (they can dive straight down at 75 mph), swoops underneath, and catches the eaglet on her back between her wings. Then she carries the baby back up to the nest…and drops it again. This seems pretty cruel, right? Those eaglets must be scared to death and thinking, “Why is mom doing this to us?” But the mother knows that if her children are going to be like her, then they must learn to fly. She knows that in the end these frightened eaglets will learn and begin to be what they are meant to be. Satan gets the blame for a lot of things that happen in our lives (and rightfully so!), but the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:6-7 (and many other places) that we go through trials to test our faith and turn us into something wonderful. Sometimes our hard knocks in life, our trials, the times that we ask, “Why are you letting this happen, God?” are because He wants us to be what we are meant to be… like Him.
As if this was not enough, now the mother eagle comes back to the nest and begins to tear it apart. She removes the feather and leaves so that what once was a nice comfortable place becomes very uncomfortable. She is forcing the eaglets to leave the nest, to leave the comfort and security they had there and go out on their own. It seems like the end of their world, but in reality it is only the beginning of their lives as eagles. God does this repeatedly with His followers in the Bible. Things seem to be at their darkest and lowest, but God knows that it is only the beginning of something new and wonderful. Consider Joseph. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to Egypt, bought by Potiphar, accused of trying to take advantage of Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison. While the Bible doesn’t tell us, you know that Joseph had to wonder why his life had turned out this way and he probably feared at times that he would die in that Egyptian prison. But what looked like an end to Joseph was actually only a beginning. Joseph is released from prison and rises to be second in command in the land of Egypt. Because of his position he is able to save the Israelite nation during a famine and bring them to Egypt where they flourish and prosper for 400 years. It seemed like the end, but it was only a beginning. Sometimes God has to tear apart our comfort zone so that we realize that He is all that we need. He is our future, and He has great plans for us.
The Gift of Sight
From there he spies out the prey,
his eyes behold it from far away.
All birds have great eyesight, but eagles have exceptional eyesight. They can see what most birds do not. They can see a lizard on a rock 1,000 yards away! As Christians we have a different “sight” than others. We see things that most people do not. We see dangers where others see none, we see opportunities where others see folly, and we see the presence of God where others see nothing. People will not understand why we, as Christians, do some of the things we do. They will not understand our decisions. They will not understand our standards. They will not understand how we live our lives, but they do not “see” as we see. We challenge society and all it believes is important, because we see like God sees, not like man sees.
Imagine for a moment that you live in Ur about 4,000 years ago. You’ve just heard some amazing, but puzzling news. Abram is leaving Ur! He’s one of the wealthiest and most prominent citizens. Why would he leave? Abram tells you that he’s been told to leave by God. “Where are you going, Abram?” He tells you that he doesn’t know. He is just supposed to leave and God will tell him when he has reached his destination. Probably all of the people in Ur reacted with disbelief at this news. What could he be thinking? Was he losing his mind? No, Abram–or Abraham– had different “sight” than everyone else. He had faith in God and that faith caused him to do things that other people found unbelievable. If we truly are using our Christian “sight,” then most people in world will think that we are crazy as well.
Facing the Sun
Most people do not ever see an eagle die, but ornithologists who study eagles have observed eagles die in the wild. Eagles seem to have a premonition that they are going to die. They fly up somewhere very high, find a rock, and grip it tightly with their talons while they face the sun wherever it is in the sky.
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”… And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Acts 7:55-56, 59
Christians have nothing to fear from death. We should all aspire to die like the eagle, looking eagerly for our heavenly home. We should grip tightly to the Rock of Ages and face the Son as He receives our spirit. There is nothing more wonderful than knowing that a Christian has made their way home. After all, that is what we are born to do: dwell with God in heaven for eternity.
Don’t Bring Me Down
A story is told of a farmer who took an eagle’s egg and put it into a chicken’s nest on his farm. One day a guy from the city stopped by the farm for directions and stared in amazement at this eagle scratching around the barnyard with the other chickens. He fluttered and hopped around instead of using his huge, powerful wings to soar. He asked the farmer why there was an eagle in his barnyard. The farmer replied, “Well, you see, he thinks he’s a chicken. He was raised by chickens and being a chicken is the only thing he’s ever known.” There are a lot of people, things, and even Satan who want to keep us being chickens. They don’t want us to be born again, they don’t want us to soar, they don’t want us to use our sight, and they don’t want us to die faithfully. But God knows what we were born to do. We were not born to scratch around in the barnyard like a chicken. We were born to soar. We were born to see. We were born to live with Him for eternity. We were born to be like Him.
By Chelli Guthrie
Chelli is the Let it Overflow Editor for CFYC. She and her husband, Luke, work with the Abell St. church of Christ in Wharton, Texas, where Luke is the pulpit minister. Chelli teaches the Jr. High class on Sunday mornings and leads the Children’s Bible Hour program on Sunday nights. She is a full-time mom who homeschools their three children: Grace (9), Sophia (5), and Levi (3). Her blog is www.theplantedtrees.blogspot.com.