How can you say, Jacob, how can you insist, Israel, ‘My destiny is hidden from Yahweh, my rights are ignored by my God’? Did you not know? Had you not heard? Yahweh is an everlasting God, he created the boundaries of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming. He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.
— Isaiah 40:27-31
I try to run every day. Of course I’m not exactly a young man anymore, and sometimes find it difficult to follow through because my body protests, or my mind conjures some excuse, or conditions outside seem less than ideal.
Somewhat free of those obstacles yesterday, I headed out on one of my usual circuits. The sun was shining and warm, but I also felt a wind building as I headed East on the first leg of my journey.
My path quickly turned South, down a narrow road that cuts through some pristine desert. The light wind quickly became a gust, which was buffeting me from the side, making progress slow and cumbersome.
About half way down the second stretch I was surprised to see two enormous golden eagles nearby. One was circling on the wind to my left while the other glided down to perch at about eye level on a dead Palo Verde tree up ahead to my right.
His plumage was bright and shiny in the sunlight, and I marveled at how this majestic creature seemed so unruffled by the prevailing wind. With his head turned west into the gust, he simply rested on the branch, watching me peacefully as I continued to approach at a slow but steady clip.
I slowed a bit more as I drew near, mostly because the wind was making it increasingly difficult to proceed at my usual pace, but also because I didn’t want to spook the eagle. Apparently unafraid, the eagle just watched me come closer. This really seemed quite unusual because I have never seen raptors content to perch so low when someone infringed on their turf.
As the distance closed to about 5 yards, I finally stopped, quiet and still as the eagle. A moment later, he turned his head in my direction, launched himself into flight, and quickly tucked his enormous talons tightly into his body.
He was gifted and fluid in flight. First sweeping low to the East with the wind, then banking sharply 180 degrees where he hovered against the wind, fixed in place like a giant kite. It was a complete mystery to me how he hovered there without a physical tether, and how the wind didn’t just throw this creature backwards into the desert.
All at once, he suddenly lifted skyward with some subtle adjustments which carried him impossibly higher and higher in the air. The movements were nearly imperceptible. A slight spreading of the wings. A gentle rocking back and forth. Head elevated. Whatever the actual combination of movements, the eagle was quickly becoming a tiny speck in the vast blue Arizona sky.
It looked so effortless, yet it was so profound in its natural simplicity that it took my breath away. I continued South, contemplating this marvelous lesson from God in His creation, until I eventually found myself turning West like the eagle, directly into the same strong headwinds.
It was a stiff challenge then, and the going was difficult. As I struggled along, it occurred to me that the eagle had taught me a valuable lesson about moving forward in adversity. Don’t let the wind defeat you, I thought. Consider the obstacle as nothing more than a means to elevate yourself. So, I endeavored to make some ‘adjustments’ of my own, starting from my heart, and on to my head and protesting flesh.
It was slow at first, but something gradually seemed to change. Naturally it was still difficult making headway, but with some effort it became increasingly easier to shift my focus from the daunting wind in front of me, to handing things over to God… to the blessed joy of being able to exert myself with His help… to overcome with and ultimately finish the run at my house.
I can’t swear to it, but I believe that I actually strengthened my pace, and I’m certain that the experience began to feel a great deal less like work and a whole lot more like joy. Ah, the joy of being able to exert myself while resting in God.
In very short order, I turned down my street and found myself back home. Oh, how many names we could all give to these obstacles put in our path. How many times have we all forgotten this simple lesson? ‘Did you not know? Had you not heard?
I have to admit that I did know and had heard, yet I found myself once again as the little student in need of a remedial lesson from our patient, tireless and loving Master. Lord, You are the only and true source of strength, in spite of what we sometimes think. Thank you for strengthening us when we are feeling weary and powerless.