Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soaring like Osprey

I wrote this about six years ago when we were wrestling with whether or not to plant a church. Today, after planting one church in Calgary and moving to Vancouver to plant another, the issues are the same.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

I have been watching a pair of osprey teach their two chicks how to fly. Learning to fly is different than learning to walk in that you really only get one chance. If the chick takes off to soon, before it can truly fly, it will fall to the water or beach below. If the fall does not kill it, it will be stuck on the ground and will be potential prey for other creatures. Osprey are careful and patient teachers. They mate once every year or two and have two chicks. They invest much in the care of these chicks by teaching them how to fish and build a nest and fly.

The pair that I have been watching nests on top of four pilings tied together at the top, which tower twenty feet above the water of Kootenay Lake. The parent birds are incredibly patient. They spend hours flying around the tall pilings. They show the chicks how to carry sticks in their talons as they fly. They soar around the nest on wind currents and they flap their wings hard to show how early flight must be achieved. While one parent is demonstrating flight, the other is behind the chicks down in the nest where they gently coax the chick to imitate the parental movements. The flying parent calls the chicks inviting them to step out into the air and experience flight.

Each chick eventually tests the air by spreading out the expanse of its wings and flapping clumsily at the air. They attempt vertical take off by filling their wings with air, beating hard against the air and hopping with their legs. This is a safe way to attempt flight, but of course they can never achieve vertical take off and must one day step off the piling into open air.

It struck me that this is a beautiful analogy of how God deals with us. If God has made the osprey patient and caring, He must be even more patient and loving towards us. He loves us like a parent loves their child. He cares for us and patiently teaches us. He also knows that He must push us to learn. All created beings from osprey to human adults will take the easy route if given the chance. The osprey chick has no real desire to learn to fly and fish for itself as long as her parents will bring her food. She is quite content to sit safely in the nest and eat and sleep through her days.
God is somewhat like the parental osprey. He coaxes, instructs and challenges us to get out and experience the freedom we are designed to enjoy. He wants us to be all that we can be; we like safety and a full belly. He wants us to soar like eagles (or osprey); we like to stay on the ground while someone provides a meal for us.

I have a safe and secure job. If I am willing to put up with a bit of poor management and people I find hard to get along with, I could stay there for many years. They pay me a relatively good salary. Between what I make and what Maureen makes, we live quite comfortably. It is a safe place to be. My needs are met. And yet, I have a sense that there is something more that I am supposed to be. I no longer believe in the mission of the lab in which I work. Unless some things change, I can no longer work toward the end to which it is heading in good conscience. Is God coaxing me out of the nest? Is He calling me to step out into the air where it is not safe? Is He challenging me to soar? Will I take the challenge or sit in my safe place waiting for my next regurgitated meal?

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