An Eagle Leaving the Nest

For the LORD’s portion is His people;
Jacob is His own allotment. 
He found him in a desert land
And in the waste of a howling wilderness;
He encircled him, watched over him,
Guarded him as the apple of His eye. 
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
Hovers over its young,
Spreads out its wings, takes them up,
Carries them on its wings, 
So the LORD alone did lead him.

Deuteronomy 32:9–12

When graduation season comes, many young people leave school and enter the real world. At the start of a new phase of life, those with faith must begin with an attitude very different from others. As Moses proclaimed on God’s behalf, “You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Exodus 19:4). The exodus from Egypt was accomplished, not by human effort, but solely through the work of God’s love. Likewise, those who are about to start a new life and dare to attempt an exodus must first bear in mind that the nature of God’s love is analogous to the maternal love of an eagle.

An eagle is said to be the king of birds, and its love toward its eaglets is exceptionally ardent. It builds a nest on an overhanging cliff or in a tall tree. The outer frame of the nest is made of small pieces of wood such as thorns, while the inside is lined with soft plumes, pieces of cloth, or straw. In the soft nest, the eagle incubates its eggs, and the hatched eaglets grow under its tender care.

At the flapping sound of wings of merciful parents
Who deliver food
Open all the mouths of chicks
Whose eyes are not yet opened.

Sontoku Ninomiya (1787–1856)

However, a certain time comes when the mother bird suddenly flaps her large wings (as large as six feet across) and starts shaking the nest. The eaglets are suddenly awakened and startled. They cling to the nest in fear, as they are shaken more vigorously. The mother bird, hovering over and looking down at the young from the sky, stirs the nest harder with her wings until the eaglets can endure no longer. They become frightened and snuggle deeper into the nest, clinging on. The eaglets’ cry notwithstanding, the mother further stirs up the nest and scatters the soft linings. The nest becomes so rough and uncomfortable the eaglets are compelled to depart.

Surprisingly, the Bible tells us this is how God awakens chicks of the tabernacle. It is His loving method for preparing them to leave the nest. This is indeed a Spartan method of rearing the young. As the classic Zen text, The Gateless Gate, says, “Step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole!” Since God sends His people from the nest in the same way, our minds must be prepared for it.

If you are presently shaken and distressed, God’s time is ripe. Forsake the present, and resolutely leave the nest to carry out your exodus. God’s will is there. Never say, “I cannot fly because my wings are weak!”

God awakens you only because He wants to carry you on His large wings of love, just as “a mother eagle spreads out her wings, takes her young, and carries them on her wings.” God wants to fly high in the sky and take you beyond the horizon to “the land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey.” This is His ultimate means to deliver you into the world of greater hap-piness. It is not that you leave the nest after your wings are ready. Even though you are still weak, God is stirring your nest to wake you up so you can ride on His wings of blessings. In faith, we need courage to ride on God’s wings.

Carried on God’s invisible wings, you fly higher towards heaven on the mysterious journey of life. Like an eagle, Christ flies freely far above the smaller birds, and, spreading His wings, He will carry you to a great fertile field of the future. To an unknown field lying far and wide, His infinite love like a cloud is calling you. The flight of life on God’s gracious wings is thrilling—I am, likewise, elated from day to day in a sweet ecstasy.

Faith is a heart that fears no adventures.
So long as I have fears, 
I cannot know His love. 
Resolutely I step forward 
Into the unknown world.
“There is no path ahead of me, 
It is made after I walk.”
To an unknown field lying far and wide,
The infinite love is calling me.
Awakened by the flap of His wings,
I now begin my flight,
Leaving the old nest behind!

Ikuro Teshima, “The Lord’s Illumination in Meditation”

If you remain in the adverse present, your soul will dwindle away and only an agonizing death awaits. Faith frees you from the present situation and urges your resolute departure like Abraham. Shake yourself free from your deadlocked faith, unbearable circumstances, or oppressive illnesses, and stir up your faith for an adventure on God’s wings. Make up your mind to enter a completely changed state! If you are shaken, listen to the approaching sound of God’s flapping wings. God’s love demands that you “step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole!”

Ikuro Teshima