An Eagle Tale
On the wall of the great room in my home, “Eagle Summit”, are two large paintings showing two contrasting eagles. One looks shabby and disheveled, rumpled, with scruffy feathers, crooked beak, diminished vision, and gnarled feet scarcely holding onto a branch. The other appears youthful, strong, groomed, alert, and gazing bright-eyed at the stars as it soars from a high mountaintop perch. Both, however, are “senior citizen” birds!
In the Bible God compares the person of faith to an eagle—not to a chicken, vulture, parrot, crow, canary or turkey! The eagle is the king of birds—stately, powerful, long-lived, and incredibly aerodynamic.
Eagles are distinct among other birds since they only flap their wings about ten percent of flight time, not continuously. God created them to soar rapidly and effortlessly on air currents.
By instinct the eagle tends meticulously to its daily grooming. It spends up to an hour each day perched quietly on a rock in the sunshine preening and cleaning its feathers. An adult eagle passes each of its 7,000 feathers through its mouth and breathes on it as if steam cleaning to restore its feathers from yesterday's wear and tear. A gland in the eagle's mouth secretes oil to weatherproof and waterproof the feathers so it can dive into the water for fish.
In spite of a lifetime of daily maintenance, the time does come in the life span of this majestic bird when all its wonderful functions begin to diminish. It faces a deteriorating, aging crisis, unable to navigate in the air as before. Its eyes become wispy and no longer moist, its talons dull, and calcium deposits on its beak hinder it from hunting. It can hardly squawk. It looks like the bird in the first frame on my wall. The eagle is losing strength, and its feathers are sparse and unkempt. It is one tired bird! (Does that sound like anyone you know? Someone in your mirror?)
The aging eagle could take the way of least resistance—give up and settle down on a canyon floor with wings drooping, dragging itself around listlessly. But the valley is not where God means for the eagle to spend its last days; moreover, it may not be time for its death.
When a vigorous eagle notices the bedraggled, defeated eagle in the canyon, it screams at it and dives down to provoke the old eagle to leave the unprotected low places where its enemies are lurking to take advantage of its weakness. It must instead "mount up with wings as an eagle" to a high place and go into the rejuvenation mode that God has instinctively planned for it.
The declining eagle is programmed by God to seek a high, flat rock in direct sunlight. For two weeks it works hard to rub and scrape its talons against the rock to sharpen them again. It knocks its blunt beak repeatedly against the rock or a branch in order to break off the calcium deposits until the old beak crumbles away revealing a renewed one. If necessary, it flies headlong and painfully into a rock to accomplish that. No pain, no gain.
During that time, the aging eagle returns again and again to the moving “living water” of a cool, fresh stream to drink deeply and bathe itself to get rid of lice, parasites, and mud that has encrusted and weighed down its feathers and hindered its flight. All the while it is plucking out every one of its worn feathers until it is nearly naked, undoubtedly a painful but necessary procedure.
The eagle in renewal spends much time resting quietly and warming itself exposed to the sun. It continues its restoration for forty days until all its new feathers re-grow and all its functions are re-energized. The old eagle’s eyes become clear as a young eagle's again. Its talons and beak are razor-sharp, and its normal strength has returned.
When the eagle senses that its rejuvenation is complete, it takes off soaring to the heights, crying loudly and triumphantly with its revived voice and renewed capabilities and strength. Once renewed, it is said that if compared with a young eagle, you can’t tell the difference!
As chronologically mature people of faith, when we too begin to feel the burden of the years and the diminishing of our human strength, let’s follow the eagle’s example and God’s provision for our renewal. Let’s come apart alone with the Lord and deal with the unproductive, hindering things that have accumulated like barnacles in our lives.
Let's get rid of the buildup of non-essentials—“put off” the many things that “so easily beset us” and hold us down from flying high with the Lord. It may hurt to pluck such things out of our lives, but our rejuvenation is worth some temporary suffering.
God's plan is to restore us to live abundantly in Christ so we can complete the race that is set before us and finish His loving purposes through us.
Let us who are in our mature years not remain down on our canyon floor having a pity party or wallowing in our depression or the declining condition of our “earth suits,” our mortal bodies. Our canyon floor will become a place of defeat and death. There we are vulnerable to the wiles of the evil one who is after the ruin of our souls.
We are meant to rise to the holy mountain of the Lord’s presence and be strengthened as long as God grants us life. Jesus Christ has abundant restorative powers available to reinvigorate us both spiritually and physically according to our deepest need.
God’s Word encourages us to press on the upward way to new heights to the very end of our lives on earth. Who of us doesn’t need such rehabilitation, not only day by day but at some milestone points in our lives?
Psalm 103:5 explodes with new meaning now. The definition of “rejuvenate” is to restore to youthful vigor. “The Lord satisfies your years with good things so that YOUR YOUTH IS RENEWED [rejuvenated] LIKE THE EAGLE.”
(Encore blog by special request)
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