Last week, I published a post about Isaiah 40:31 “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”. In that article, I sought to dispel the notion of waiting upon the Lord as meaning being idle and waiting in expectancy for an answered prayer or a request from God. Later, I was curious about why reference was made to an eagle in this verse. I promised to publish something to feed my curiosity and here I have it.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with this story or have come across this story on various social media platforms. This story is mostly used to educate people on the importance of change.
“The Eagle has the longest life-span of its species. It can live up to 70 years”. “But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40th year, its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. Its old, aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, stick to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: DIE or go through a painful process of CHANGE which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle flies to a mountain top and sit on its nest. There, the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. Then the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back, and then it will pluck out its talons. When it’s new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old, aged feathers. After 5 months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years”.
Some people argue that this story is a myth because birds naturally lose their feathers & regrow them in a process called molting. Eagles go through a molt roughly once a year throughout their lives. During a molt, old feathers naturally fall out and new ones grow in to take their place. There is no pulling of the feathers. Some bird species do lose most of their feathers at one time and are forced to hide until they grow back, but not raptors like eagles. Flight (wing and tail) feathers drop out one by one and are replaced one by one, not all at once so the animal can continue to fly and catch food. Plus, jerking out its feathers could permanently damage the feather follicle so no feather grows back. Without feathers, a bird is unable to fly. If they cannot fly they cannot hunt for food or escape predators that cross their path. Both cases would obviously lead to the death of the bird.
Secondly, an eagle’s beak is made of keratin, like human fingernails. Like our fingernails, an eagle’s beak is constantly growing. Eagles tear at tough foods and wipe their beaks against hard objects like branches or even rocks to keep them clean. This process also helps keep the beak in magnificent shape throughout an eagle’s entire life. The loss of a beak in the wild would be certain death to any bird of prey. The talons are also made of keratin, like human fingernails. And so the talons too are constantly growing. Grabbing and killing prey keeps the talons sharp as well as prevents them from becoming too long. If they got soft, there would be something seriously wrong with the bird. The talons are what an eagle uses to catch food. To pluck them out would not only be extremely difficult and painful but would also take away their ability to provide food for themselves. And, most importantly, when a raptor loses a talon in this fashion, it is possible it will not grow back and the loss of blood can be horrific. Therefore, it would die of starvation even if it survived the likely infection caused by “plucking out” its talons.
When I first came across this story, I was wondering how an eagle feeds while in seclusion in the mountains due to its inability to fly after shedding off its feathers. My question was answered at a program I attended recently where the speaker explained that during this period, other eagles surround the eagle undergoing change and continuously cheer it up until it regains its strength to fly. The other eagles also constantly provide the eagle undergoing change with food until it gains its strength to make its famous flight.
I’m not an expert when it comes to the anatomy of birds or how they live not to talk of even eagles so I can’t vouch for the veracity of these claims or assertions made about eagles but they all seem to make sense. Let us assume the story of an eagle flying high to shed off its feathers and other eagles come to its aid with moral support and food is true. I’m sure by now you’re wondering how it relates to Isaiah 40:31.
A featherless, helpless eagle on a mountain top can represent a stage where life takes a hit at you. Naturally, our strength is lost at this stage and we become reclusive and sometimes isolate ourselves. At this stage our loved ones come to our aid and cheer us up with Isaiah 40:31 “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”. The question I begin to ask is; how consistently do we look out for others who are weak and cheer them up just like the eagles do?
I’m just imagining a weak eagle who can’t go out hunting for food and is being cheered up by its fellow eagles. Will the cheering up be effective without it being given food? Can the eagle survive on empty cheers till its 150 days of seclusion is over? Can the cheers give the eagle hope that this 150 days of seclusion will soon be over? Can the cheers provide the necessary nutrients that the eagle’s body needs to grow new feathers and beak?
Unfortunately, this is what some of us do. Even though the word of God is spirit filled, true and produces results, we sometimes forget that we as humans are first earthly vessels and thus sometimes, the flesh has to be in good condition before it can hold on to things of the spirit.
Imagine a young man who catered for his tertiary education himself and upon completing school, he lost the part-time job that helped him see himself through school. His loved ones upon hearing about his fate encourage him with Isaiah 40:31. How long will the gentleman hold on to this verse in the midst of rent payment starring glaringly at his face? How long do you expect a young man who can’t afford three square meals a day to hold on to this verse? When this young man runs out of patience, gives up and resorts to unconventional means of survival, he is seen to have lost faith.
Why is it that, in the waiting room of almost any establishment, air conditions are fixed, televisions are mounted, interesting magazines are put at the disposal of people and comfortable seats are provided? Do you also realize that one is able to wait patiently even for longer hours if these luxury incentives are provided?
How do you expect a person in a deplorable condition to mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk, and not faint when his/her open door has arrived?
The truth is, it is difficult for one to wait patiently on God when there is difficulty getting access to the basic necessities of life. It is, therefore, imperative that life is made conducive for people who are experiencing delays in life to enable them to endure the waiting period. Their strength is also renewed. Imagine you being hungry and given the option to choose between food and a Bible; which will you go for first?
Let’s not just shove down Bible verses into the throats of people encountering challenges but let’s also be part of the solution to their problems because after all God wouldn’t jump down from heaven to answer our prayers but it is human’s he’d use as vessels to grant requests.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this and let’s keep the conversation going.