By Susan K. Smith,
One of the most powerful stories I have ever heard is the story about the little eaglet who somehow got mixed up in a family of baby chickens and so began thinking he was a chicken, too. Only …he didn’t look like everyone else. The baby chicks were cute and fuzzy; this eaglet was scrawny and seemed to have very few feathers on his body. Neither the other chicks, the mama chicken or even the humans who passed by paid this eaglet much attention.
He began to internalize a feeling of inferiority.
One day a farmer came by looking to buy some grain from the farm where the eaglet lived. He looked into the pen and said to the owner, “That bird there. What’s he doing with the chickens? Why, you’ve got a baby eagle right there!”
His fellow farmer scoffed and said, “That is not an eagle. It’s a chick and an ugly one at that. I won’t be able to get much out of him. He’s not worth much.”
But the visiting farmer persisted. “No, you’re wrong. That is a baby eagle. You’ve got a treasure here.”
The fellow farmer grew irritated and said, “I’ve been a farmer for many a day and I ought to be able to tell what kind of bird that is! That …is a chicken, a baby chicken…and it’s ugly!”
When the visiting farmer persisted, the host farmer exploded. “FINE! If you think you know so much, take that ugly bird with you, no charge, and get out of here. I’ll let YOU raise it and find out how it has no worth.”
Of course, the baby eaglet heard it all and was sad. The visiting farmer picked it up and held it close to his chest, mumbling, “One day, you will know who you are.” He took him home and put him in the pen with other baby chicks and let him be.
The eaglet grew and before long, it was clear even to him that he didn’t look like the other chickens. They were kind of …dumpy. They had little tiny feet and feathers that seemed to be all over the place. Some were brown, some were white, but all of them looked like and sounded like each other. He, on the other hand, was tall and sleek. His feathers were black except on his head and neck. There the feathers were the whitest white ever. H is beak was long and yellow and, while his brother and sister chicks seemed to have a hard time even seeing the grain on the ground in front of them, he noticed that he could see…so far…even while standing on the ground.
Still, he did not know who he was or what he was. He was very sad.
One day, his new owner took him out and took him to a ledge overlooking a canyon. “Today you are going to find out who you are,” the farmer said. “You are not a chicken. You are an eagle …and you were meant to fly.”
The eaglet, who was really still a baby, shook. He looked down, and while he was looking he heard the farmer say, “I am going to throw you out, and when you get out there, lift your wings.”
That’s all the farmer said. He threw the eaglet out, but the eaglet, still convinced he was a chicken, merely cried out. “Help! Save me!” And he began to fall.
The farmer ran down the cliff and caught him, mumbling as he took the eaglet back up to the ledge. “You are an eagle,” the farmer said. “You were meant to fly. When I throw you out, lift your wings.”
But the same thing happened. The eaglet, not knowing who he was, merely froze in fright and waited to die.
The farmer ran to catch him one more time, and said, as he took the eagle back up to the ledge, “You are an eagle. You were meant to fly. This time I will not run to catch you. You are an eagle. You can do what you were made to do.”
So, the farmer threw the eaglet back out over the abyss. The eaglet shivered and cried, but he looked back and saw that the farmer was not running to catch him. He started descending, and he heard the farmer’s voice, “Arch your back!”
Whatever was that? The eaglet didn’t know what that meant…but as he descended, something inside of him took over, and he arched his back and to his amazement, his wings left his sides and seemed to go on forever. In amazement he watched his wings expand and in excitement, he began to move them…and it was only then that he realized …he was flying! God had made him to fly but he had been sitting in painful insecurity, comparing himself to chickens, none of whom would ever do what he was doing now. He looked back for the farmer, but he was gone. The eagle soared and soared and finally, after so many days of feeling sad and unwanted, began to fly into his destiny.
God watches us not knowing who we are. God sees us comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves lacking. God sees us holding back from what God has gifted us to do because, in comparing ourselves to others, we have abandoned whom God created us to be.
On this day, God is standing on a ledge, having thrown us out one more time, and is beseeching us to learn who we are. God knows; God just wants us to know. God is calling out to us, “arch your back!”
If we do just that much, if we are frightened just enough, or tired enough to want to stop being tired from comparing ourselves to others, the “something” in us that God put there will do the work for us. That gift inside of us will do the work and make us arch our backs …and begin to soar.
And God will smile.
Amen and amen!
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad