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Lessons From a Bald Eagle

Lessons From a Bald Eagle

At long last, I am sitting in front of my laptop reflecting upon my recent trip with the bald eagles.  I am reminded that God speaks to us every day by means of His incredible creation, giving Him a voice that we can hear with our eyes, directing us to the valuable lessons meant to be learned.  God stories…

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. Psalm 119

We are all a work in progress!  For some that could be discouraging to hear.  We want to be able to say that we have “arrived” or we “have it all together.”  Then there are those, (I’m in this category) that are relieved to know that “this is as good as it gets” does not apply to us, leaving us with the hope that “the best is yet to come.”  Understanding there is always more to learn, we press forward.

This story begins with the tide about to change, and without the requirement of a watch and the all-important tidal charts, the bald eagles can perceive the upcoming series of events.  What is so important about this tidal change you may ask?  Well, it is the high tide that arrives so quickly and abruptly through a narrow channel that the locals call it “the flood.”  Furthermore, this swift moving flood tide is able to seize an abundance of deep-water fish that are in the midst of their yearly migration and trying to navigate their way through these rapids.  This upwelling vortex of flood water results in the rapid ascent of the fish which causes their oxygen gland to expand like a balloon, rendering them helplessly afloat on the water’s surface.  Subsequently, in anticipation of their next feast the bald eagles arrive well in advance.  At first it may be just one or two eagles flying overhead.  Then, I noticed them coming from multiple directions. Here comes three more.  Look over there I count five more coming, and they just keep coming, and coming.  Two hundred bald eagles, each finding their position on an empty branch with a clear view of the water below them.  (For those of us that are old enough to remember, it was reminiscent of the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”).  Settling in, now the eagles wait, and the lessons are ready to begin.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. Psalm 62
Juvenile Bald Eagle

Waiting is never anyone’s favorite past time and that reality is true for the bald eagle as well.  Somehow, when patience is necessary, time has a way of grinding on ever so slowly.  In turn, as the waiting wears on, you can feel the tension in the air.  As the expectancy of the tidal change builds, a restlessness also begins among the eagles.  First you hear a stirring.  Then a flutter or two.  Followed by a vocal outburst of pure impatience coming from one of the immature eagles.  What’s more, without any further indication, a juvenile eagle erupts from its perch to survey the waters below.  Was there any hint of fish rising to the surface?  No, the waiting is not over yet.  Additionally, the aftereffect of this “look-see” came at a great cost.  The behavior of this inexperienced eagle expended precious energy on an empty stomach.  For this young eagle going forward, mastering the valuable lesson of self-control will only be developed through discipline and experience.

Sub-Adult Bald Eagle

The impertinence of this immature eagle’s behavior did not go unnoticed.  The sub-adult eagles were offended by the disrespect of this juvenile for its elders.  Moreover, it appears this youthful adolescent eagle was verbally chastised by several of the supposedly “more mature” sub-adults.  (I wish I could understand eagle “speak.”)  Whereas the more advanced eagles continued to articulate their displeasure and offered up their wise counsel it became apparent their instructions were being neglected.  Nevertheless, one of the sub-adults decided to give this young eagle some up-close-and-personal direction to return to the perch.  Although this tutelage from the sub-adult eagle was met with reluctance on the part of the juvenile eagle, but eventually the elder eagle accomplished its mission and this juvenile returned to the sidelines.

Adult Bald Eagles

Since I had a front row seat to this schoolhouse of protocol and etiquette, I sat in awe and admiration for the adult bald eagles.  Undisturbed by any commotion spewing around them, the adult eagles remained undaunted with their gaze immovable.  They would not be distracted from the foreordained tidal change. Patience and experience would dictate the moment to burst forth, to be at the right place at the right time when this meal would be readily served.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27

Could there be a lesson in this God story for me?  How about you?  Which stage of eagle maturity do you identify with the most?  The juveniles; ever longing for the instant meal (or instant everything), so impatient.  Willfully vocalizing their frustration for everyone to hear or at least for anyone willing to listen.  Wanting to do things their way, showing off to prove themselves, and in turn placing little value on the experience of others.  Next, we have the sub-adults; they are slightly better at patience or at least able to sit still a little longer, but their attention is on everything going on around them.  They seem to be easily put off by the behavior of others.  The sub-adults also have something to prove, they are  eager to move up in the pecking order.  They are always contemplating the next opportunity to demonstrate their skills and ability.  The sub-adults are ever ready to establish how mature they are.  By way of illustration, let’s not forget their swiftness to instruct others on the requirements for accomplishing “a job well done.”  Finally, we have the adult bald eagles; focused, determined, resolute, decisive, persistent, unwavering.  Their look alone is strength personified.  Admittedly, in the form of true confessions, depending on the circumstance or perhaps the time of day, I recognize  many characteristics of both the immature and the sub-adult eagles in my own reactions to situations.  As a by-product of this life lesson, I find myself yearning to become more like the adult bald eagles with my everyday choices.  As a result I am once again hopeful, “the best is yet to come.”

Lord, You will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from You. Isaiah 26

As we look for the best that the future holds, it is important not to miss the best of each day, knowing that eventually the waiting will end.  Similarly for the eagles the best was right in front of them.  The much-anticipated moment materialized.  The first upwelling of water springs forth pushing with it the long-awaited meal.  An adult eagle, seizing a fish performed a well-executed display of experience, and its patience is rewarded.  Continuing with the grace of a well-choreographed dance, one eagle after another receives their prize.

However, what started off an orderly exhibition of aerial acrobatics at its finest, then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the event became an explosion of motion and the mob mentality took over.  As a matter of course, a countless number of eagles made their rapid descent from overhead to snatch a fish from the water near the boat.  I could hear the flutter of feathers attached to their mighty wings swooping down literally within arm’s reach.  My head felt as though it was on a swivel, trying to look in all directions at the same time and swinging the camera lens back and forth, pushing the button and hoping for the best.  Eventually, I put the camera down, while absorbing the spectacle unfolding before me.  There was a sense of familiarity to it.  How many times before had I felt as though I was standing alone in the middle of the world gone wild?

Eventually, when things go wild calamity is sure to follow.  As you look at this picture of these two adult eagles, another lesson presents itself.  I didn’t see what happened to them, but more than likely both eagles were diving for the same fish from different directions and had a midair collision.  Each eagle became submerged in the frigid water below.  Their feathers becoming too saturated, they were unable to fly and escape the cold.  But as providence would have it, a boat just happened to be nearby the two eagles.  That boat just happened to have a large net to help scoop the eagles out of the water.  This same boat just happened to have a platform on the back of the boat where the eagles were able to rest while also giving them shelter from the occupants in the boat.  Although the delivery of the eagles back to dry land was not without complications (like many things in life). Nevertheless, once reaching land, these eagles were able to rest, dry out and most importantly return to the skies.  For these bald eagles the near tragedy, regardless of how it  happened, was in the past.  What lay ahead for them, was victorious flight!  A lesson worth learning for all of us who escape peril!

He (God) led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me. Psalm 18

Yes, we are all a work in progress, and along the way we will have setbacks but we will also have great achievements in each stage of our maturing.  From our successes and our failures, we are offered the opportunity to learn, grow, develop, and be given the much-needed experience to bring each lesson into clear view. Although the choice is always ours, having the correct perspective is crucial, and even more importantly, through it all, good times and bad, realize that you do not ever have to be alone.  God speaks to us every day by means of His incredible creation…valuable lessons meant to be learned…God stories…

How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 36