Living most of the year along the Mississippi River in Missouri, I’m used to seeing bald eagles soaring on the thermals above the river’s limestone bluffs. But those sightings pale in comparison to what I’ve seen this summer in Maine while living under an eagles’ nest on the serene cove of Toddy Pond.
In June, the mature eagles swooped about the cove, settling upon protruding rocks a short distance from my porch or finding a roost in the centuries-old fir trees that line the shore. But the real show began in July when the eaglets were learning to fly. The mature eagles would fly across the cove to the fir trees. Then they would call loudly to the young eagles as if in encouragement, “Come on, you can do it.” The young eagles seemed to respond with a higher-pitched, “I can’t do it – I’m afraid!”
The mature eagles didn’t give up. They called louder, filling the usually serene cove with a cacophony of eagle communications. Finally the young eagles launched and flew awkwardly toward them. They had some funny first landings, misjudging how to grab a branch and come to a halt.
Things are calming down now. The young eagles show confidence in their skills, and I’m the beneficiary of their endless practice flights. What a joy to see their strength, grace, and dominion. Eagles are made to fly, and it’s clear that any misperception by the young eagles about their ability to fly was just that – a misperception.
What a life lesson. When feeling reluctant to tackle a new activity because of perceived inadequacies, we can turn to our Father-Mother God and hear the assurance that we can do what we are being asked to do because we are made to do it. We are made to have infinite capability, to be the expression of God. It’s not a personal ability or inability that we are drawing upon, but the larger definition of who and what we are in relation to God that enables us to grow, learn, succeed, and even prosper.
Christ Jesus demonstrated this in his lifework. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). To me this statement, while acknowledging that an individual cannot be the source of any capacity, also implies that Jesus’ dominion must have come from a source other than personal ability.
He also said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). He traced his ability to God and must have seen himself as forever attached to, expressed by, supported by, even directly enabled by God. It was as if Jesus understood that he had no power to succeed or fail on his own, but had to be the perfect expression of God, just as a reflection in the mirror has no choice but to be the full expression of the original in front of the mirror.
I recently had an opportunity to prove this concept. I’d spent the day on my hands and knees scrubbing floors. When I tried to get up, one of my knees was not functioning freely. I began to pray for myself, and in the morning when I was still limping, I asked a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me. I was feeling foolish for having pressed so hard to get the floors scrubbed, when over the next several days I needed to fulfill a church obligation that would require me to be in front of a large group of people. Why hadn’t I prepared for this event more restfully?
Throughout the next two days of rehearsals for this event, I continued to pray with the practitioner’s help. She helped me let go of the recrimination, the pressures about an overwhelming project I’d taken on, and other people’s concerns about me. I began to feel surer that this was not about me willfully pressing on, but about leaning more completely on God and understanding that every bit of my being belongs to God. I prayed with the first line from the preface of the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”
During this time the swelling in my knee increased and mobility decreased, and it was difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep at night. Yet I felt a spiritual assurance that all of the bodily symptoms and the barrage of worrisome thoughts about how I’d fulfill my obligations were like a mirage. I sensed that just as the mirage-puddle in the road disappears as one drives forward, the swelling and swirl of concern would dissolve as I gently moved forward.
On the day of the event, I felt as those young eagles might have felt as they left the nest to take flight. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it onto the stage or how I’d be able to focus through the discomfort, but I heard God’s voice assuring me that I could to do this because I was divinely enabled to express Him.
So I spread my mental wings of joy and gratitude and proceeded. And right in the middle of the event, the swelling in my knee dramatically began to dissipate. On the ride back to the cottage that night, there was more progress. And over the next 24 hours there was complete freedom, so that in the weeks since then, I’ve mowed the yard, climbed the hill countless times, and even gotten back on my hands and knees to paint the bathroom floor.
The lesson I’ll take back to the Midwest is the one the eagles taught me: Even if you feel afraid, leap out of the nest and lean on God’s love. You are made by God to have dominion. You are made to soar.