Anyone else think, “Debbie’s got some opinions on eagles”—this week’s bird from Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible by
For the first time, I was a bit disappointed in a chapter because I don’t really know much more about eagles. It could be that of all the birds (other than pigeons) that we have looked at thus far, I was the most familiar with eagles. But what I’ve learned from this book and the Bible study (available here), is that more of a gap exists between what I think I know about a bird and actual information about a bird.
I will agree with Debbie Blue that, at least in American culture, eagles are woven into many aspects. Prior to reading this chapter, I had completely forgotten that I, myself, am an eagle. An Irwin Elementary Eagle, that is. Yup, the eagle was the mascot of my elementary school; and though I was in elementary school the longest (compared to junior high, high school, or undergrad), it is the mascot I forget.
Okay, so maybe Blue has a point. I did find it interesting to read the list of countries and empires throughout history who have identified with the eagle. Still, I wish she had explored the nature.
In the Bible study Emily Smith wrote for the eagle, she said:
“The eagle looks beautiful and powerful, but even a glance at their character seems to be far less attractive. They are predators. Their survival is linked to their ability to kill and destroy. If they have two chicks in the nest, it is not uncommon for the strong chick to attempt to kill the weaker one. ‘Should one chick decide to kill its sibling, neither parent will make the slightest effort to stop the fratricide.’[i] The Eagle elevates itself at the expense of others.
“The Bible may not have a lot to say about eagles, but it does have something to say about power. Jesus himself came as a dependent and powerless infant. We are told to approach the kingdom of God like a child (Matthew 18). We are commanded to love and forgive our enemies (Romans 12), which is about the furthest action on the spectrum from killing our brothers.”
Isn’t that interesting? And disturbing? A parent not stepping in to stop a chick from killing a sibling?!
In my connection group last week, we had a conversation that won’t leave me, so I know I need to pay attention.
We talked about Isaiah 40:13, which as we know is often translated “eagle” but could just as reasonably be rendered “vulture.” We wondered what it means to wait like a vulture—which I know isn’t quite what the verse says :-). It says, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles or vultures . . . ”
The father of one of my group members is visiting and he’s a pastor, so she asked him about translating eagle/vulture and he casually mentioned “Oh yeah, it can be translated that way.” Like everyone knew they could be interchangeably translated and Debbie Blue isn’t some radical playing loose and fast with the text. But I didn’t know about the eagle/vulture dance before reading this book. In light of the verse we talked about “waiting in ministry like vultures” and we came up with these ideas:
1. Vultures and eagles use energy differently when waiting. Eagles have to “make it happen” by flapping their wings, while Vultures can ride the thermal waves. Question: do we have both times of waiting in our life? Do we know when to wait like an eagle, meaning we need to do something? Or when we need to wait like a vulture and ride a thermal wave?
2. Vultures have to wait for something to die to be fed (vs. eagles killing their food or their sibling!). So, often, we in ministry have to fly around waiting and watching the big picture—and then when the time is right (for a vulture, when something dies) THEN move into action. Question: Do we give ourselves enough permission to wait to be “ministry fed” or are we too much like eagles and making things happen?
Two last thoughts as we near the end of today’s post: what stood out to you in this chapter? This is what I love about book club . . . though this chapter might not have been my favorite, I know, know, know it is one of yours. I love hearing what you liked or pushed your buttons. It helps me (and us) to interact with the material, allowing it to soak more deeply into us.
Other thought: we are halfway done with this book (what?! I know). So, let’s do a short review. What has stayed with you about the pigeon, pelican, quail, vulture, and eagle? What do you recall about these birds?
I look forward to five more birds! See you in the comments,
P.S. Next bird? The Ostrich. Anyone else feel like hiding their head? Get it? A bird joke!