Have you ever watched an eagle glide in the air? How it spends a lot of time in a day just opening its wings and letting the strong winds take it to great heights?
It is truly amazing that the eagle displays such a behaviour although perhaps, we can say it does not have the capacity to analyse and evaluate its actions, and neither can it make an examination of its inner motivations for doing so.
But any hunter will know just how much an eagle's spreading of wings will increase his chances of spotting this animal and shooting it. It increases the eagle's surface area, making it more visible while on the move too. It makes the eagle more vulnerable to everything else in its surroundings.
And this vulnerability is striking. It allows the eagle to effortlessly remain in the air for a very long period of time. It flaps its wings several times and then let the wind carry it up and around. You would see that at times, the eagles are not even circling the air. They simply remain very much in the same position, or sometimes, the wind can even carry them backwards.
All of which speaks to me the invitation to imitate the eagle in my relationship with God. To let God be to me as the wind is to the eagle. The invitation to open wide my arms, rest in His love and let Him take me. To let His love take me wherever He wills, with an indifference in my heart, my will surrendered over to Him. And all I need to do is to wait, listen and respond. Not to "effortize", not to force out a path that isn't there, not to initiate a step before God shines the spotlight onto the way.
This spreading of wings, opening of arms. It is also the same physical position Jesus took when He hung upon the cross, the same inner disposition of surrendering to the Father. Of total vulnerability. It was also the invitation to Peter at the sea of Tiberias, as Jesus said...
John 21: 18-19
"In all truth I tell you, when you were young, you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go. In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glorify God. After this he said, 'Follow me.'"
Within this invitation is the call to a process of maturing our faith. When our faith "grow(s) old", we will arrive at the conviction that our trust is absolutely safe when it is placed in God. While this conviction cannot be forced upon ourselves, it arises because our hearts have been sufficiently opened to acknowledge the wonders God has done for us in our lives, even amidst our down and out moments, our hurts and sufferings.
When we can see and humbly admit that we deserve eternal condemnation by our sins, when we neither deny nor discount the terrible effects our sins have caused our victims. But yet, in our sinfulness, God continues to love us through the many blessings He still showers upon us. When we discipline our hearts to recognise with gratitude the hand of God in our lives, and not take for granted what we have.
When we contemplate on the Gospels and realise how God continually refuses to let us, His people, go. How He steps over every boundary to call us home to our heavenly Father. Then we will grow. Grow in intimate knowledge, a deep knowledge in our hearts, of who God truly is. And faith grows out of this growing familiarity with Him who loves the imperfect us with His perfect love. Faith grows when we grow to trust in this love, and to surrender our insecurities to this love.
Then, we need no longer be that little sparrow that has to flap its wings so vigorously and incessantly just to get from one point to another. We can trust the wind to take us. We can be free to allow ourselves to be taken. We need not try so hard, too hard. And when we are held up high in the air without having to fuss over the tiresome flapping of our wings, we can enjoy the beautiful scenery around us. Such freedom. When we need not focus all our energy on the endless doings in our everyday life, when we can let go to make space in our hearts for faith. When we need not be so guarded all the time from the uncertainties of the next moment. We are liberated. Life becomes a journey to savour and enjoy. No longer tiresome and burdensome.
Just as Jesus said in this Sunday's Gospel (14th Sunday in ordinary time), "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and i will give you rest."
Since God's love will give us all that is good, we need only to keep in touch with Him, wait patiently, listen attentively and respond positively when He shows the way. And when He shows the way, it may not be the way we had in mind or desire to take. It need not be smooth and painless. Scary as this is, the path will nonetheless be laid out with every grace we need for the journey, which will ensure our own salvation because our salvation, our coming home to our Father, is what God desires for us. And the Spirit of God will accompany us.
Stretching out our hands, making ourselves totally vulnerable to the evil that surrounds us in this world. Getting hurt, coming to Jesus for healing, and then choosing again to continue forgiving and loving. This is the death to which Jesus invites us. "Follow me," He said to Peter and now to us. Our martyrdom. Our discipleship. Making real our commitment to follow Christ. Death to ourselves - our gateway into the everlasting glory of God.
We can only be vulnerable when our hearts are opened and filled with the life and love of God.
How has God loved you in small and big ways?
Imagine for a moment that you are that eagle soaring high. No agenda. No cages.
Freely soaring. Freely be-ing. Allowing the wind to hold you up.
How do you feel?
What is preventing you from feeling this way in the reality of your life?
How is God inviting you to rest in His love?
Where in your life is He asking you to stretch open your arms and let Him take you?