This past week, my beloved in-laws were in town for a visit. And, please, where I state beloved, read no sarcasm. They are indeed beloved to me and as amiable a couple as can be found on the wide earth. A visit from them is a delight, an honor and a much anticipated event.
During a rare moment when Sparrow was not vying for Grandma’s undivided attention, my sweet mother-in-law, Linda, and I lingered over coffee at a local shop in town. Fortunate to have caught the otherwise rainy June sky in a state of sun, we sat outside and relished in the sights of the harbor. Moored sailboats bobbed like apples in the calm water. People ambled along the narrow path leading to the lighthouse whose paint and vibrance has worn thin by wind and too many tourist snapshots.
We spoke about critical things and nonsensical things; of love and its rewards and subsequent heartaches; of marriage and friendship and childrearing; of regrets and unequivocal grace.
And then we turned our attention to the sky. Overhead, a seagull was attempting to chase a bald eagle out of its harbor territory. Likely trying to protect its young, the seagull was relentless, pursuing the eagle so high into the sky’s endlessness that we could barely make out their silhouettes. The eagle was ambivalent, easily staying just ahead of the seagull until it finally grew bored and exited the scene.
We went back to talking. Moments later, the eagle returned and the whole desperate escapade resumed. We watched the same scene at least three different times, each chase ending with the eagle disappearing only long enough for us earth-bound mortals to snag a sip of coffee and give our eyes a break from the sun’s glare.
Likely, I should’ve been disgusted with the eagle. And in a way, I was. What despicable behavior to taunt a desperate seagull determined to protect it’s young. But, it was the birds’ movements that struck me. For every nonchalant pulse of the eagle’s enormous wings, the poor seagull frantically flapped. While the eagle effortlessly soared on invisible air currents, the seagull’s wings beat ceaselessly, pounding the air in search of a strength it never seemed to find. The difference between the two birds was stark and staggering.
I will admit this: I’ve spent most of my life being a graceless seagull. If you know me well, you will nod in agreement. My default setting is frantic flapping; I find it virtually impossible to effortlessly soar.
And yet, I’m promised the ability. I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard, read, written or sung the phrase from Isaiah 40 that assures that those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles. But somehow, I’ve missed what this verse actually implies. Maybe it’s because the unfortunate counterpart to the eagle is missing. If the verse had said “those who wait on the Lord will soar while those who choose to wait on their own strength, ability or gumption will tirelessly flap their wings like a seagull,” then maybe it would have dawned on me.
Or maybe I missed the implication because I just don’t want to admit that there is a better way to move through this life.
Those who wait on the Lord will soar. They won’t be free of worry or heartache or tragedy or hardship or boredom or discouragement or, to be more concise, free of reality. But they won’t have to work so damn hard to get through whatever life is currently handing out.
He will exchange our inadequate, puny seagull wings with wings that can ride the air currents of His mighty strength.
I’ve made a bad habit of control; it’s my drug and I’m disgustingly addicted. I read once that gambling addicts will gamble in their sleep and wake up unaware of their behavior. I’ve been on this earth for 33 years and, looking back with honesty, I can say I’m right up there with my sleep-gambling friends. Control and desperate attempts to muster through life on the merit of my own strength has defined me. Just ask my mom. Just ask my husband. Just ask the God who sees everything I do.
So when I read this promise I think: Sweet relief. Yes please. And then I immediately think how can I pull that off? Oh irony! Oh helpless human who doesn’t see the obvious error in her ways! I can’t pull it off. To pull it off myself would be to rely, as per usual, on my own strength.
But if I can’t do it myself, I’m not exactly sure how to do to it. Maybe it’s as simple as waking every morning and
asking pleading for my strength to fall away so that I will have no choice but to rely on His.
If I do this, I have a hunch He will do it. My experience is that this prayer, the refine me, Oh Lord prayer is one that He answers almost instantly. Just utter the words make me reliant on You and, if you have your eyes open, you’ll begin to see evidence of His response.
And, if you’re anything like me, when you start to panic and are tempted to revert toward bad habits of control and frantic flapping , meditate on the few verses previous, when the prophet reminds the reader that “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
My lack of understanding in His ability doesn’t render it less true or less possible or less wonderful. Regardless of my opinion on the matter, His current can carry me.
Here’s to shedding my inner seagull.