A Hummingbird and A Hawk

Last month, a participant in a day retreat I led for a ministry board had an experience in solitude that reminded me of an almost exact experience twenty years ago. Here is an excerpt from my April 1991 solitude journal:

I’ve set aside another day to be alone with God. Sitting in the hills above Chatsworth, I see a hawk soaring out in front of and above me. Without one flap of his wings, he circles higher and higher with ease because of the power of the wind here.

Father, I have been asking You to fill me with Your Spirit. Maybe that would look like this hawk’s gliding on the power of the wind. I’d like to be more like him. With little obvious effort, the hawk makes great progress. I think of Isaiah 40, ‘Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ I want to soar like this hawk, empowered by the wind of Your Spirit.

Thank You that renewed strength comes from settling my hope in You Yourself. I let all of my hopes come together in the One Who is my Hope. Hoping doesn’t look like doing much. It looks passive, but looks are deceiving. True hope is engaged and dynamic.

After a little walk around, I came back down the hill towards the church property and saw the hawk again. This time, I saw it flapping its wings to get into the flow of the wind blowing through the canyon. The first time I saw the hawk, I only saw soaring. I never saw it flapping his wings.

I wonder if the life of the Spirit is like that. There is hard, hidden work to do to get into the flow of God’s Spirit so that we can soar. Spiritual disciplines require a great deal of effort Although others may only see the soaring; the hard, unseen work of flapping is necessary preparation for soaring. Father, teach me to do the hard work of waiting, seeking, and surrendering where no one else sees, so that I can soar high as Your Spirit empowers me.

As I took a few more moments to bring closure to my day of prayer, I noticed a hummingbird browsing among the wild flowers. It came closer and closer until it was right in front of me. It’s wings were beating so rapidly that they were a blur. It’s such a different vision than the soaring hawk. I felt God’s Spirit asking me what I preferred—to be a frantically busy buzzing hummingbird or a majestic, soaring hawk. Do I want to be hurried but actually going nowhere, or do I want to focus my efforts on attentiveness to the life and the guidance of the Spirit, learning to soar where His wind takes me?”


Join the Conversation

What have been some of your ‘hummingbird moments’ lately?

What next step might Jesus be inviting you to take in becoming more like the hawk who soars?

Alan Fadling:
fadlingAlan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.  
    • Love this illustration. This is an image that will really stick with me. And I appreciate you sharing something from your journal. I journal too and find it a dynamic spiritual practice.

      In June I attended a longer retreat and come home soaring. Jus this morning though I felt more like the humming bird. Your post reminded me to wait and surrender to the Spirit and be more like the hawk.

      Thanks for the great reminder

      • Good to hear from you, Jean. I’m glad journaling has been such a life-giving practice for you. It certainly has been for me. Most of my own blog posts are drawn from my journal of the last 22 years or so.

        May you sense the strengthening of God’s Spirit in your intention to wait attentively and willingly upon Him.

    • Nancy Lopez

      How funny – I truly did have a hummingbird moment yesterday. We have a hummingbird feeder hanging off our balcony where we can watch from the corner of our living room. There has been one male hummingbird that has taken claim to this feeder; he sits in the nearby tree and as soon as anyone else comes to drink he rushes in and chases them away and flies right back to his watchtower. You are right, his little wings are really buzzing. He doesn’t even feed himself when he is busy protecting his territory; what a waste of energy! He just wants to be “king”! Now, one of the little inserts had fallen out of where they stick their beaks, so one feeder entry was a bigger hole than the rest.

      Yesterday, I had an awe-inspiring moment as a gorgeous, bright yellow and black hooded oriole had found the big,open channel to the juice. He perched his big body carefully on the place where he could get right at what he came for. The little king flew over, but made a quick u-turn when he saw that big guy; “ok, he said, you can have your place.” I thought immediately that the little king was fear, trying to protect by always saying “no, no, no!” while the beautiful big bird was the Spirit, finally finding an opening and taking His place. Then fear was chased away.

    • Nancy – love hearing your hummingbird story. What a great one. We’ve just entered the season when we put out two additional feeders because of migrating hummers. i love having those little guys around our place, especially as a helpful visual of my own frequent temptation to hurry.