It looked like she was frozen in time.
Last month, flying to teach a class in Equatorial Guinea, I found myself early one morning sitting in the new Senegal national airport. Long shadows shortened as the sun came over the horizon and hints of life began to stir. The terminal, besides a few other travelers headed to unknown locations, was empty. I looked at the planes sitting in wait, the trucks and people moving near the runway. Then all of a sudden the most remarkable thing happened.
A bird swooped into view and, as it’s body came parallel with the window in front of my face, it froze. Wings extended. Eyes steeled ahead. It’s brown top feathers and soft speckled off-white belly unmoved. It was like watching a movie and at the height of the action someone pushed the pause button.
This beautiful Montagu’s Harrier was frozen in time before my eyes.
The headwind was like a brick wall. The bird hung there suspended in the air, her previous momentum keeping her from falling backward. After a few seconds of what appeared to be miraculous, the harrier began to beat her stationary wings, a fury of feathers, raising her body at least five feet. I thought to myself, what a beautiful illustration this bird had given me of overcoming!
That was until it froze again!
Despite raising its body straight up, she was still caught in the same wind tunnel, spreading her wings against the wind, her frame frozen against the opposing force. My beautiful illustration of overcoming was shattered. The bird was in the same situation just higher.
If you don’t know anything about the Montagu’s Harrier it’s an incredible bird. It is not native to Senegal. This particular bird flies long distances, has conquered the Sahara, flying from Southern Europe and Eurasia. It is a migrating bird capable of flying through all kinds of harsh conditions and climates.
And despite all this, a minuscule airport wind tunnel had conquered her. My sermon illustration was wrecked! Then the wings began to beat again, harder, faster, stronger. Her body raised another five feet and this time instead of being frozen in space her svelte shape went shooting out of sight like a bullet fired from a gun!
As followers of Jesus we have a choice when we face opposition, but too often we oversimplify the Christian life. When we face trials and tribulations, regardless of the momentum that has brought us to where we are, we freeze. We know that we “are more than conquerors” but when faced with something that must be conquered we shrink from the battle (Romans 8.37).
This past month the Family Church, the first church we planted here in Dakar, was evicted from her building. For months, the pastor and elders worked back and forth with the landlord to come to a new agreement. Yet, after all the ups and downs, after all the beating of wings, in a matter of hours the pulpit, chairs and keyboard were on the street. Moments like these can crush a people’s spirit. Just think of the desert-wandering former slaves of Egypt who instead of looking toward the unknown and unseen Promised Land were ready to go back to their former lives of known suffering.
Like the Montagu’s Harrier you were made for more, more than an airport wind tunnel, more than a single point in history. You were made to conquer the unknown and the unseen, to ascend higher and higher still. But don’t be deceived by these simple words, there is nothing simple about them. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus told us this so that in the face of trials and tribulations, we can have peace (John 16.33).
Like the Family Church in Parcelles Assainies, if you are going through difficulties don’t be surprised, hear the voice of Jesus calling you to take heart, lift you eyes, raise your arms, refuse to be defeated or cling to the known meager past. There is a future and a hope only found in Jesus, and Jesus is calling you higher, unfrozen in time.
Header Picture by Radovan Václav Used through Creative Commons