“But right at the beginning there is something you should know, even if it breaks your heart. For all your long hours, and the physical effort, and the expense, and even your genuine affection for this creature you have come to love…if you leave the cage door open, it will walk out of the door…Because this is the way of all wildlife.”
-Katherine McKeever on the keeping of falcons in Quality of Life
A few years ago, I went to an Eagle Scout ceremony for one of my former students. All his hard work and outdoor skills culminated in that high honor being conferred upon him. Since it was an Eagle Scout ceremony, another former student, who works for an organization that rescues birds of prey, brought a bald eagle as a special guest.
The bird’s size was striking; some can weigh in at 14 pounds and stand three feet high. I sat there, a few feet away from this massive creature, and looked at the needle-sharp talons, then up to the heavy, hooked beak and darting eyes. The thing that caught me off guard was the proximity of the bird’s face to that of the falconer. Here is a creature that can dive at 100 miles per hour, snatch fish from mountain lakes, and eviscerate small mammals, but it was being held by this young man mere inches away from his eyes. The strangest thing was that the eagle didn’t act as though she saw the falconer. Her focus was everywhere else. If anything moved, the head would jerk in the direction of the movement, but rarely, if ever, did she make eye contact with the one holding her up. Curious about this, I did some research. Rob Waite, of the British School of Falconry, gives this explanation, “They’re not like dogs. They don’t want to hang out with you. The relationship ends when we are no longer useful to them.” This is the reason for bells or electronic tracking devices being attached to the bird when outside. Once the bird is full of food, it doesn’t tend to return on its own.
It’s easy to become a consumer, whether we are talking about birds or people.
Self-absorption often comes on the heels of blessing. The LORD foretold of Israel turning away after he blessed them: “For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant” (Deuteronomy 31:20). This defection from intimacy with the LORD occurred despite the fact he protected and Israel from harm and provided for their needs. They forgot who carried them.
We can too. God, our Creator and Provider may bless us and sustain us, but we may choose to focus on everything and anything else. We may attempt to use him to get our needs met and nothing more. The fellowship ends when he is no longer useful; once we are full, we may turn to our own way. This is an especially relevant warning during this season. Hardship can drive people toward God, but when normalcy returns, so can complacency. We can be in the presence of Almighty God, the King of the Universe, being held aloft by his gracious and loving hand, and never make eye contact.
Let’s remain diligent to keep our eyes upon the One holding us up.
We will bless God as we remember his great blessings toward us. – Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
We will not forget the wisdom of God’s Word. – Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
We will never doubt the power, mercy or righteousness of God. – Psalm 105:5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.