Sometime ago God began to teach me lessons from the life of an Eagle. Soon after that I found the article of a certain servant of God, Sandy Warner, which he titled, Eagle Facts and Parable of Mentoring. I would like to share this article and would interject with my own comments, placing them in brackets and italics. This is one lesson I wish we all learnt. He began by explaining this from Isaiah 40.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the LORD alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.
As most of you know, eagles have been classified in the prophetic world as being symbolic of the prophetic. I recently did some research about eagles and was fascinated with how the information correlated with our training up as Christians and also the prophetic giftings.
Did you know that eagles must LEARN to fly and hunt and are taught by OBSERVING their parents? These skills are not instinctive like some of God’s creatures. However, eagles are born with a different instinct called imprinting. (This is touching! It means, young Christians would never get to know how to function in the Ministry or how to handle certain problems just by inward witness alone. God has ordained that they learn those things from their mentors and spiritual fathers.) Konrad Lorenz first discovered imprinting when he observed ducks and geese hatching out of their eggs. He noticed they would bond with the first moving object they saw, regardless of whether this was their parent. From that first moment of imprinting, they follow their moving parent (or adopted parent) until raised. (It is interesting that Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1 Cor. 11:1). (The fastest way to grow spiritually is to imitate your mentors and spiritual fathers; that was what Paul taught the Church, that is Divine order for spiritual growth. Unfortunately the culture in the Western world is that of independence. People learn to be independent from childhood. When this mentality is imported to the Church, young Christians tend to survive alone, learn by themselves and tend to be self-made. We hide under the guise that Jesus Christ is our role model and Master. The result is that, we either suffer stunted growth or frustrate the purpose of God in our lives).
The concept of imprinting is fascinating. Bird shelters that rescue eagle eggs, must hand feed them with an eagle puppet so that the eagles do not think they are human and end up resisting their own kind when it is time to mate. In Kondrad’s imprinting studies, he saw one egg hatch near a rolling ping pong ball. When the duck grew old enough, it tried to mate with anything that was round and rolling. One group of ducklings imprinted on his moving boots. In the morning when he would go outside to put on his boots, instead of being in their nest, the ducks were curled up and sleeping on his boots. They followed Kondrad - everywhere his boots took him.
In this concept of imprinting, it is easy to see the importance of both newborn Christians and also newborn prophets needing proper Christian and prophetic role models. Anything that ‘moves’ in the name of Christianity, is not necessarily the right standard to follow. (Mat 7:22,23, 5:24, 2 Tim 4:3,4)
Like the eagles, a Christian’s foundations of learning to fly and hunt must be learned, and the adoptive parents play an important part in this. Flying in a Christian’s life is faith to rise above circumstances. Hunting is searching for the manna or bread from heaven, to grow strong and healthy. At first the role models feed the young, then they must learn to find food for themselves. "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." (Prov 22:6)
There is an old adage, "Give a person a fish, and he has food for a day. Teach a person to fish, and he has food for a lifetime." One aspect of being taught is learning to listen and then applying it. The young learn this by watching older ones model something, then they mimic it themselves until they develop their own skills. "Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Don't neglect your mother's teaching. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and clothe you with honor." (Prov 1:8-9 NLT)
An important aspect of teaching, is for the older ones to take the time to explain HOW they came to their conclusions. (Your Pastor is supposed to be your mentor, but many times it is not. He is not your mentor who does not explain to you, one on one, his failures, weaknesses, principles, challenges, battles, his strategies and victories. Mentoring and spiritual fathering requires one on one contact, or personal touch). If they are sharing something from the Lord, they can take the time to explain what went on behind the scenes, building bridges of communication, so that the young can also learn how to come up with their own conclusions when the time comes. When the older ones simply give the meat (the Word of the Lord) without giving them the scripture, vision, dream, life examples, the answers to prayer, the thought processes that went on behind the scenes… etc… then the young are forced to either swallow or reject the food without question. (This method raises dumb followers who are dogmatic without doctrine; true disciples are raised by sharing not just the Word but also your life). And the Word becomes fish for a day. But if the young are led in what went on behind the scenes, then they learn to apply their own conclusions and also learn the roads of revelation and faith in receiving food from the Lord by themselves. (When people do not learn this way they usually end up in errors and delusion).
The best teacher is a role model. Jesus taught by living among the people, showing them how to do what He did and teaching them about His Father Who was the Source for everything in His life. He taught people through stories in their current surroundings, so that they could see the practical and apply it to the spiritual. The best kind of teachers are those who are transparent and learn to let go of their dignity and masks. They are simply real, living people, sharing from their own hearts and lives… the triumphs and the pitfalls of every day living, and how relationship with our Heavenly Father makes a difference. (John 10:2-4). (This is personal touch. That was how Timothy and Titus learnt from Paul; that was how Polycarp learnt from John; that is God’s ordained pattern for raising servants in the Kingdom of God).
We may think that we are not mature enough to teach anyone. This is not true. I spent a long time praying for mature leadership so that we would have enough godly role models to raise the harvest when it came. And the Lord brought me an answer I did not expect. If you watch a baby in a room with other people, you will notice that if there is a toddler in the room, the baby’s eyes will follow the moving toddler. If there is a grade schooler in the room, the toddler will watch the moving grade schooler. The younger will automatically bond and follow whatever available age is older than its own. I noticed this is like imprinting! God has placed within our lives, an instinctive bonding that each level of maturity looks up to, following and mimicking the next available level above it. When the harvest comes in, a one day old Christian can reach a non Christian with his own story of how God found him. The one week old Christian can share the scripture that jumped off the page with the 2 day old Christian. And so it goes, until we all grow into the full measure and stature of Jesus Christ. (Eph 4:13). (It is doubtful therefore, that the young Christian who does not like to follow any ‘spiritual senior’ ever has the Holy Ghost!).
The movie called "Fly Away Home" is a wonderful true story of how a little girl rescued some duck eggs from an excavation project and brought them home to hatch. After hatching they followed her everywhere and she found out as they were growing that these ducks would not survive unless she taught them to fly and took their migration south for the winter. This prophetic story is a remarkable feat of how she taught them to flap their wings and eventually fly and how she led them on their first migration to escape the bitter cold. If she could fly them south, they would find their own way back home in the spring by the same way she took them, and then be able to take the following winter migrations without her. All the subsequent "children" of those first ducks would be able to follow their parents on their own first migration and the cycle would continue. (Christians can keep the faith of the fathers only by learning from the fathers and passing it on to the subsequent generations. Where learning through mentoring stops, the baton stops, and the age old godly values are lost).
When a baby eagle fledges (loses its fluffy baby down and grows flying feathers) a parent will hover over the nest and flap its wings. As the fledgling stretches for food, it mimics the parents and flaps its newly feathered wings. The subsequent wind that the parent makes, will cause the baby to rise slightly above the nest as the baby is also flapping its own wings. These are its first flights - inches above the floor of the nest, usually at about 8-10 weeks old. The fledging makes vigorous wing stretches and exercises and is very hungry. It weighs about one pound more than its parents because it needs the excess to survive the next stage of training which is hunting - outside the nest.
Sometimes when a young eaglet is fearful of taking its first flight away from the nest, a parent will withhold food to force it out. This is similar to what happens to those who have been closely mentored and the Lord says its time the "fledglings" got their wings. The fledglings find their mentors increasingly unavailable and or are told to try and hear the Lord for themselves. (When your mentors are not available any more, perhaps their work in your life has ended. You might think of applying every bit of lessons you have learnt from them. Where this understanding is lacking, there is the tendency for the protégé to become bitter, displeased and could be so critical of the mentor).
I read of one experience written by Frances Hamerstrom who spent her life studying wildlife. This was her observation of a fledgling’s first flight. I thought it a remarkable parable of our lives with the Lord. The following is a quote from her book, "An Eagle to the Sky" (1970).
"The.....eaglet was now alone in the nest. Each time a parent came flying in toward the nest he called for food eagerly; but over and over again, it (the parent) came with empty feet, and the eaglet grew thinner. He pulled meat scraps from the old dried-up carcasses lying around the nest. He watched a sluggish carrion beetle, picked it up gingerly, and ate it. His first kill.
Days passed, and as he lost body fat he became quicker in his movements and paddled ever more lightly when the wind blew, scarcely touching the nest edge; from time to time he was airborne for a moment or two.
Parents often flew past and sometimes fed him. Beating his wings and teetering on the edge of the nest, he screamed for food whenever one flew by. And a parent often flew past just out of reach, carrying delectable meals: a half-grown jack rabbit or a plump rat raided from a dump. Although he was hungry almost all the time, he was becoming more playful as he lost his baby fat; sometimes, when no parent bird was in sight, he pounced ferociously on a scrap of prairie dog skin or on old bits of dried bone.
The male eaglet stayed by himself for the most part. He was no longer brooded at night. Hunger and the cold mountain nights were having their effect, not only on his body but on his disposition. A late frost hit the valley, and a night wind ruffled his feathers and chilled his body. When the sunlight reached the eyrie's (the brood in a nest of a bird of prey) edge, he sought its warmth; and soon, again, he was bounding in the wind, now light and firm-muscled.
A parent flew by, downwind, dangling a young marmot in its feet. The eaglet almost lost his balance in his eagerness for food. Then the parent swung by again, closer, upwind, and riding the updraft by the eyrie, as though daring him to fly. Lifted light by the wind, he was airborne, flying--or more gliding--for the first time in his life. He sailed across the valley to make a scrambling, almost tumbling landing on a bare knoll. As he turned to get his bearings the parent dropped the young marmot nearby. Half running, half flying he pounced on it, mantled, and ate his fill." [end of Frances’ quote]
I thought that story a profound parable of our journey with the Lord (in the Christian faith, as well as applicable to natural growth). When it’s time to leave our nest of comfort and learn to fly, we get so hungry for the Lord that we are willing to leave our comfortable surroundings and abandon old childhood habits, all for the taste and fill of strong meat dropped from heaven. Strong meat is not easily palatable, (hard to digest), but when one becomes hungry enough, it is. (One does not mind the hardness, just as Proverbs 27:7 says, “A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet. “ God would not release certain things into your life until you are hungry enough).
Frances’ recording was a heroic first flight. Most often an eaglet will take its first flight to a nearby tree branch, or stump. It will glide back to the nest if possible. Otherwise the parents continue to bring food wherever it perches. It is at this time it breaks the infant bond with the nest. (However they have discovered in the imprinting studies, that mated eagles will return to the nest or within close proximity to the nest and raise their own family). One month after leaving the nest it has learned to soar and climb with the winds. It takes an eagle 4-5 years after this to become an adult eagle. (Despite being an adult eagle, it does not forget the nest where it was raised. Let us learn not to cut the umbilical cord when we think we are established).
An eagle learns to soar by using thermal currents of air. These warm air patterns are created by the surrounding terrain. They will spread their wings and their tail feathers and let the wind carry them to new heights, then glide down to catch another upward thermal. Soaring saves an eagle energy because it does not have to flap its wings as often.
When I think of wings, I consider them to be parables of our wings of faith. Faith is a heart condition where we stretch out and reach toward the Lord, while the winds of His Spirit holds us afloat. When we flap our wings, we are vigorously exercising our faith through works, based upon what we believe the Lord has told us. And when we soar, we are resting in our trust in the Lord and letting Him carry us amidst the surrounding terrain. The Lord teaches us through faith, how to rise above difficulties and hindrances in our life. We learn how to rise high enough to gain His perspective on what is below. As I was praying about the concept of soaring with wings as eagles I heard the Lord say that we want a formula. He said there is no formula, only to abide in Him. (John 12:46, 14:16, 15:4,6,7,10). (I would add that, using the thermal currents of air also means, knowing what God is doing now, whether in your life, in the nation, in Christendom, etc. and yielding yourself. It is moving in, or cashing in on, the momentum created by the Spirit of God. When we do, we achieve the most results with least efforts).
I was interested in the role of the tail feathers for landing and maneuvering in flight. It stabilizes the eagle and is actually used like a brake when landing, just like an airplane. It tilts back and forth, up and down, depending upon the need. I felt that this parable was a significant part of our relationship with the Lord - learning how to put on the brakes when needed. If you notice the scripture says, those that WAIT upon the Lord shall mount up with eagles’ wings. (Isa 40:31) It seems like that is the hardest lesson in life, to learn to wait upon Him and not do something in our own strength. Sometimes He wants us to wait because it is a matter of timing, like for instance we are losing our baby fur and growing eagles’ wings. But other times He wants us to wait upon Him because He wants to carry us so we don’t suffer burnout in flapping our wings! The truth is, when one learns to abide in Him, they learn the secret of waiting upon Him for everything they do. (John 5:19 "Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.")
May we all learn to become better role models and teachers and students - and may we all learn to abide in Him in everything that we do. "And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more." (2 Cor 3:18 NLT)
May we wait upon the Lord to renew our strength; and may our faith mount up with wings as eagles so that we may run, and not be weary; and walk and not faint. Amen.
The Eagle is one of the strongest and wisest of birds. The Eagle is not afraid of exposing her young to dangers; dangers that impel growth. They learn in a hard way. And this is a lesson for mentors and spiritual fathers too.
God compared Himself to an Eagle. And like the Eagle, God is not over protective of His Elects. God is love, yet in His love He leads the believer into rough roads, heart-aches, inexplicable painful losses, heart-wrenching disappointments, disasters and deprivation of necessaries of life, to name a few. In His love, Job was delivered to the wish of the Devil, to be tormented and afflicted for a long time; in His love Jesus was lead into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. God intentionally allows false teachers and divisions to be an integral part of the Church so that the real saints could be proven. What an irony! God banished Israel to exile when they rebelled against His Word; He allows His saints to be persecuted, killed, and allows opposition to the Gospel. He uses difficult situations to test the quality of the materials people are made of, just as the Mother Eagle uses toughness to bring out the real eagle in the eaglets.
The goldsmith likes the gold but never over-protects it as not to expose it to fire. What intense heat does to metals is what troubles and trials do to the saints of God. They bring out the finest character in the saints, just as pressures and necessity force the eaglet to learn to fly and hunt for food by itself.
Let’s wake up, and stop being over-protective. Let’s labour in prayer but allow people to go through necessary experiences, who knows, God may be testing the stuff they are made of. If you can help, with all pleasure do, but if you cannot, do not feel guilty either. Everything God chooses for Himself is proven by fire.
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“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father..." (John 14:12).