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?”
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 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.