Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Children often return to their homes when things start getting tough- at least they return in spirit. We return to sentimental memories when life seemed simpler and more meaningful. It happens when young men and women head off to college. For some, it is when they complete college and they begin life outside of a dorm room. For others, it is when a marriage ends and they begin life anew. Or it is simply when the physical, emotional and financial stress of daily life takes its toll. Some people dream of returning home in spirit, and then there are some who actually make the move- often to the surprise and consternation of their parents. When a recent college graduate returned home, I overheard a family friend ask, “Well, haven’t you uncovered the thorns yet?” It was a colorful phrase, and I had to know what they meant.
Bird watchers, and those who live along the Mississippi River or in northern Minnesota may know this, but uncovering the thorns is a pattern of nurturing and care practiced by eagles toward their young. Eagle parents are very attentive and keep their eaglets warm and protected until after the young eagles have grown all their feathers. Then the parents will “stir up the nest” uncovering the thorns, the briars and stickers that form the building structure of the nest. This stirring means tossing out all the soft nesting materials, rabbit fur, feathers, down and grass, so that the young eagles must stand on their own. This allows the eagles to strengthen their muscles and talons in preparation for adult life. The young eagles must learn to stand before they can fly.
But uncovering the thorns has another purpose as well. It forces the eagles to leave the comfort of their nest. When the young eagles are old enough to fly, they do not realize they are capable of flight. In fact, they are often terrified of falling out of the nest. Inevitably, the day comes when the parents have to” kick” them out for their own good. Some eaglets are terrified and become paralyzed by the thought of leaving the nest. The mother eagle must physically push them out, while the father eagle circles nearby waiting to catch them if they fall. This is the meaning of the song, “On Eagle’s Wings.” And I will raise you up, on eagles’ wings, lest you dash your foot against a stone. Uncovering the thorns allows the young eagles to grow strong, to learn to fly and to become independent. Without the thorns they would never fully mature. “To uncover the thorns” is an act of love, of independence, and of growth.
Life is not always easy, nor fair. Scripture teaches us that if you wish to meet the challenges of life, you need to renew your strength. At times, it may seem that God is trying to push you out of the comfort of your nest. Perhaps he is. Perhaps you too need to uncover the thorns that are making you comfortable, to stand up, and to venture out and to discover God’s creational all around you. But what a sight you shall see from eagles’ wings.