The Father used this story to open my eyes to how I ended up stuck in defeat because of the unhealthy ways I was thinking, and how I could get out of that ditch, and never go back.
The Eagle and the Chicken
“One day a farmer found an eagle’s egg and, thinking it was one of his chicken’s eggs, placed it in a nest in his chicken coop. The egg hatched and the baby eagle grew up thinking that he was a chicken. The eagle did what the chickens did. It scratched the dirt for seeds and worms. It did not fly more than a few feet off the ground because this is what chickens did.
One day he saw an eagle flying gracefully and majestically in the open sky. He asked a chicken friend ‘What is that beautiful bird?’ The chicken said ‘That is an eagle. He is an outstanding bird, but you can’t fly like him because you are just a chicken.’
So the eagle never gave a second thought to it, and lived and died as a chicken.” Randy Pottenger
When I read that story the first time, I thought to myself:
“What a tragedy. He was built to soar into the heavens. Yet conditioned to stay earthbound, he pecked at stray seeds and chased insects. Though destined to be among the most awesome of all birds, instead he believed his neighbor’s counsel and the lies he accepted about himself. He never understood that he could have joined those majestic birds in the sky and soared with them like an eagle.”
But, the Father interrupted my thoughts, and really surprised me when He showed me:
“That’s how you’ve been looking at life, even though I have so much more for you to experience and discover.”
In that illuminating moment, I realized that although the Father wants to use simple, ordinary people for His amazing purposes, we will never be able to experience it as long as we keep thinking like someone who is living in a chicken coop.
What’s sad is we were created and destined to live and think like the eagle. But, so many sincere Christians never experience all they could become. I encounter them everywhere I go and I have such compassion for them, because I vividly remember when I felt just as lost and empty, as they still feel. That is why I will never forget the troubled feelings I was overwhelmed by when I was the Secretary of an Alternative High School. One morning I was looking out the window of a storage room. Far above me, soaring in the sky was a large, magnificent bird.
Tears instantly streamed down my cheeks. I stifled a sob as I told God:
“I ache to fly free. I long to stop feeling so painfully lost. My heart feels crushed by sadness and despair, because I feel so far away from what I thought my life was going to be all about. Please help me. Please set me free.”
When I said this desperate prayer, I had no idea that I was putting on God all the responsibility for change in my life. Yet, He was actually waiting for me to make certain choices so that He could help me to live free. Eventually, I had to face that I was drowning emotionally in paralyzing discouragement because of all the wrong paths I had chosen my entire life. As a result, I couldn’t handle the thought of taking the risk of trying something that might not work out. But, there came a day when this destructive way of thinking was turned upside down, and the whole direction of my life changed.
This is what happened.
In 1997, my husband, Barry and I said yes to the Lord and laid down everything we had to serve Him. Immediately I felt stretched in my willingness to trust Him. This uncomfortable feeling actually started when God showed Barry that He wanted us to move from San Diego to Seattle and birth a Church. Barry was eager to leave. He was born in Portland and had longed to return to the Northwest for many years. However, we knew absolutely no one there, and Barry had no job where he felt God was calling us to go.
The thought of all this was distressing for me because my roots were entrenched in California. That is where I had raised a family, established friendships, and built a fruitful ministry. I didn’t want to leave all that I had known for most of my life. It was even more painful for me to consider leaving San Diego because I would be moving away from my adult children. This meant giving up the family dinners and holidays together that I had dreamed about, ever since I was a young mother. These hopes and dreams were such an important part of my life that I didn’t want to give all this up.
While I wrestled with a painful feeling of loss every time I thought about moving far away from California, the Father shocked me. One morning this is how He showed me that my way of thinking was a huge mistake:
“My glory cloud over you and Barry has moved to the Northwest. Will you go where I am going, or will you choose to stay where you are comfortable? To reassure you, if you decide to remain here, I will still love you and take care of you. But, you and Barry will miss out on My very best for you. My purposes for you will be frustrated. In the years ahead, you will have a deadness and emptiness in your soul, because the fulfillment of My plans for you will not happen here. They can only come to pass in the new place, where I’m asking you to go.”
This was all so sobering that I told the Father I was willing to make this change. But, all the way to Seattle, tears rolled down my cheeks, while I stared out the window of the U-Haul truck and watched the miles race by. With a broken heart, I chose to obey God and put behind me all that had ever given meaning to my life. I mourned that I was saying goodbye to the only place I had ever found a home for my heart, and where I finally felt I belonged. I also grieved over the loss of not being with my adult children the way I had always dreamed and hoped for.
Yet, it was in the Northwest where we found the family and priceless friendships that God planned for us our entire lives. They each surpass every relationship either of us had ever known. I shudder every time I think about all we would have never experienced, if I had refused to leave California.
Nonetheless, for the longest time tears came easily whenever I experienced a painful sense of loss. Quite honestly, I will always miss what I lost. One day, in the midst of this struggle, a friend unexpectedly sent me this story:
“A young girl traveling on a train for the first time heard that it would have to cross several rivers. She was troubled and fearful whenever she thought of the water. But, each time the train came to a river, a bridge was always there to provide a safe way across. After passing safely over several rivers and streams, the girl settled back in her seat, and with a sigh of relief, she said to her mother, ‘I’m not worried anymore. Somebody has put bridges for us all of the way.’” Corrie Ten Boom
Then God greatly encouraged me with this message. It is for anyone who needs this reassurance.
“My beloved child,
I will be for you that bridge over troubled waters, so that you also can find your way to the other side. Every time you are in a place where you need that miracle to get to a place of safety, I will be there. I will make the impossible, possible. I will do the same for you, as I did for that young child on the train. I will provide an unexpected bridge for you, whenever you need Me to do that for you. I will do this so that you can walk over it to a place of safety and fully enter into the life I long for you to have as my beloved child.
Your Dad, who cares about you with a love you can depend on, no matter what.”
Many times since that day, I have marveled when God did provide an unexpected bridge that I could walk over to a place of safety. I just didn’t know it was there. Yet, despite all that I was learning and experiencing that meant so much to me, for several years I still didn’t let anyone all the way into my heart. I had decided a long time ago not to trust. This stopped me benefitting from what it had taken a lifetime to understand about relationships. Nonetheless, closeness to people didn’t feel safe. I felt this way, even though, “All along there was the hope in my heart that I would be set free to experience the freedom I yearned for.” Romans 8:20-21 NCV
These are the insights God showed me that challenged me to stop allowing my old ways of looking at life to defeat me:
This happens in the chicken coup with others who can never understand us, because they are not kindred with us.
But, the hurts also happen when we are flying free. So, I might as well get hurt being healthy, and give a few people a chance to get close to me.
When I decided to take this “chance,” that is when the relationships I had yearned for since I was a little girl began to happen. I also discovered that even God tells us:
“We belong to each other.
Each of us needs all the others.”
Romans 12:4-5 TLB
Then, when we are battered by the storms of life, we are not facing them alone. We can find strength and courage by staying close to those the Father gives us to share our lives with. This description of Redwood Trees powerfully captures how this way of thinking changed me:
If these grandest, most majestic of trees are alone in the forest, they don’t make it. They have a very large, but shallow root system. When a really bad storm comes along, they are easily uprooted and crash to the ground. But, when they grow close to other Redwoods, they hang on to each other’s roots. Then in the fiercest of storms they continue to stand tall and strong.
This way of looking at life solidly lines up with these powerful words about the value of close, God-centered relationship:
“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one. And if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. People who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated. But, two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT
Yet, when I was a young Christian, I made it very difficult for these destiny relationships to happen for me because I completely misunderstood the Prophet Isaiah when he wrote:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.”
Isaiah 40:31 KJV
I thought this verse meant waiting for something big, off in the future, that some day was going to happen. Consequently, I couldn’t see, or value, what the Father wanted me to enter into each day, in the present. As a result, I missed out on building relationships with those He had destined for me to know. I couldn’t even see them. I was too busy thinking about what was going to happen some day, off in the future. This mixed up thinking also made it far more difficult for me to experience the fullness of God’s plan for me. All of this began to change when I first noticed this blunt statement that didn’t line up, at all, with the way I had interpreted Isaiah:
“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”
Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB
I also discovered that the Hebrew for the word “wait” in Isaiah 40:31 actually meant to trust God confidently and hope strongly. It had nothing to do with putting life on hold, while waiting for something to happen some day.
When I first saw all this, it hit me:
Life is not a dress rehearsal.
Once today is over, it is gone forever.
It’s not coming back.
That is when these words that I had often reflected on through the years, began to mean a whole lot more to me:
“Sometimes we don’t recognize the significance of the moments in our lives. We think that moment will come again and it will be there for another day. But, that day will not be coming back. We will pass that way only once. So, if there is any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do, I need to do it now because I will not pass this way again.” Etienne De Grellet, Nathan Scott
What’s really encouraging is we also don’t have to wait until our lives are “fixed,” before we step fully into the Father’s plan for us to make a difference. Although, everywhere we go my husband, Barry, and I encounter sincere Christians who believe that they have to have everything going right in their personal lives, before God can use them. This is incredibly sad because thinking like that only causes paralysis, and deep discouragement. It also doesn’t line up, at all, with what happened to David. The Father never said to him: “First, get your personal life all straightened out, and then I can use you in My calling and plan for you.” Rather, God used David mightily, while his personal life was still an extreme mess.
There is such freedom in seeing life from this perspective!
It is so liberating!
But, it takes courage to live like this.
It is rewarding.
Yet, it isn’t easy.
Consequently, I have frequently found much encouragement in thinking about the truths in these quotes:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t try, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Twain
“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.” Churchill
“I would rather attempt to do something great and fail, than attempt to do nothing, and succeed. Our greatest glory does not consist in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” Schuller
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits, who neither enjoy, nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” Roosevelt
“A survey was done in a convalescent hospital for the elderly. They were all so ill that they would never be going back home again. When they were asked what they wish they had done differently, as they look back over their lives, many of them said, ‘I wish I had taken more risks. Then, at the end of my life, when it’s too late to do anything about it, I wouldn’t be feeling so sad that I didn’t even try the new things I wanted to do. Instead, I limited myself by not taking risks that may not work out. All this regret is such a discouraging way to feel, as I look back on my life.’” Author Unknown
To help people see how they can avoid missing out on living life to the fullest, I compiled a list of mindsets that can cause that sad loss to happen. I call it “chicken coop thinking.” There is also a second list of the courageous choices made by someone who has decided to live and think like an eagle.
Chicken Coop Thinking
I have failed so much, and I’ve made so many wrong choices that the thought of trying the things God wants me to try, feels like way too much.
I feel so guilty about things I’ve done, that I don’t see how God can use me in ways that matter much at all.
I feel so broken by all the times I “missed it,” that I’m devastated by feeling inadequate, insecure, confused, and completely discouraged. I can’t believe anymore that any of this can change.
I’ve been hurt so much that it’s too scary to trust anyone again. It’s too frightening to let anyone all the way into my heart. Therefore, I won’t, even though I feel lonely and isolated. Because if I get close to people, I could get hurt again.
Therefore, I am going to play it safe. I am going to do all I can to not let anyone have the chance to hurt me again.
I wish my life could matter. I wish I could make a difference. But, I have too much that needs to happen, and be in place, before I can try living like that. And since God is in complete control of everything that happens in my life, I’m waiting for Him to change my circumstances. I’m also waiting for Him to change me.
Although I really do want to make a difference, I have to first understand all the hurts in my past, and figure them all out, before God can use me. So, what He wants me to do with my life has to be on hold, until I finish working on all this really painful stuff.
My life is a mess because of what others did to me as a child. So, finding a way to get completely over my past has to happen, before I can get on with my life and really give myself to reaching out to others for the Father.
I have been working on forgiving for years. But, I just don’t have any feelings about forgiving those who have hurt me to be able to do that. And I know that the forgiving won’t be the “real deal,” if I don’t feel it.
I need to keep waiting for God to use me in a big and important way, before I can actually fulfill His purpose for me. Since that big thing hasn’t happened yet, I will just keep waiting for what my life is all about to take place.
I’m also just an ordinary person. I don’t see how God could use someone like me.
And, no one believes in me. No one thinks I will ever amount to anything. So why bother trying.
I’m too old to be thinking about hopes and dreams. My time for God using me is over. It’s too late for that to happen for me.
God does not control my choices. I know that because the Word says it is up to me to “choose this day a blessing or a curse.” Therefore, I have made up my mind to make choices that can help the Father’s blessing to stay on my life.
I’m not waiting until everything is all figured out, or perfect in my life, before I try what I feel God wants me to try.
He tells me, and I believe Him, that “if I wait for perfect conditions, I will never get anything done.” Therefore, I will try things that the Father wants me to try, even if it’s an uncomfortable stretch. I would rather attempt to do something and fail, than attempt to do nothing and succeed. There is no way I am going to play it so safe that when my life is just about over, I have the horrible regrets of those people in that convalescent hospital. I refuse to limit myself by my fear to fail. I will not be ruled by a dread that things may not work out. I am going to take the risks God wants me to take, and live each day of my life to the fullest for Him.
If I fail, I fail.
But at least I won’t regret that I didn’t even try.
I do have things I wish with all my heart that I had done differently. But, if God could use David and Peter, then He can forgive me and use me. So, I won’t allow my regrets to stop me from being who He wants me to be. I “flat out” won’t do that! And when I fail, because at times I will, I’ve decided to let God know I’m sincerely sorry, and then let Him help me get back up and try again.
I won’t let the past rob me of my future.
I have said goodbye to my past.
Thinking about it is not “my friend” anymore.
So when thoughts of the past come, I am determined to refuse them. I have made up my mind to do all I can, to just as swiftly as possible, change those negative thoughts to something encouraging and positive. I have also decided not to talk about my past anymore. I am determined to do whatever it takes to live today, so that God’s plan and future for me can actually happen. Besides, talking and thinking about the past has always made the hurts worse because it only kept reminding me of all the pain. No wonder the Father doesn’t want me doing that! He wants the very best for me as my kind Dad. Instead, I am going to do exactly what He says. I am forgetting all that. It is nothing compared to what He wants to do in my life. And, He’s a Father who is really excited about the brand new thing that He has already begun to do. Therefore, I am getting “on board” with looking at my life that way, too.
To forgive is a choice. It’s not an emotion. I have made the decision to forgive all those who have hurt me. That settles it. It’s over. I’m not going to focus on what they did anymore. And, I am determined to keep on choosing to forgive, no matter what new hurts may come, and doing that just as fast as possible, so that those painful moments can’t even begin to stop the amazing things God is doing in my life. I also know that if I hang on to a grudge, my relationship with that person will be poisoned by my bitterness. Then it can never be the same between us. I won’t allow that to happen.
I refuse to allow any hurts from people to rob me of having healthy, rewarding, relationships that the Father has planned for me. Rather, I have made up my mind that I would rather get my heart broken trying to experience relationship that I feel the Father wants me to take a chance at, than to ever go back to the loneliness that tormented me my entire life. I know with absolute certainty that when I do get hurt, My Dad will be there to help me, comfort me, and give me the courage to try again.
What’s awesome is I have honestly faced, and fully accept, that I am definitely going to get hurt. But, if I stay in the chicken coop, foolishly trying to avoid that pain, there’s no one there who is kindred with me, because chickens don’t think or feel anything like an eagle. So, they can never understand me. My longings will never make any sense to them at all.
I finally get it!
This journey through life is not just about Jesus and Me.
Because often the bridges over the hard places in life come from the encouragement of those whom my kind Father has given to me, to be my kindred friends. He did this so that we can give strength to one another!
Therefore, it is settled!
I won’t ever again live like a tree alone in the forest, with no one in my life to help me get back up again when I fall down.
I’m also convinced, and with all my heart, that my caring Dad will always understand how I’m feeling when relationships hurt. So, He will be there for me during all my hard times, to comfort me and will always hugely help me.
I have also made up my mind that I am going to believe what the Father in His Word tells me I am. It is His voice and His Word I will listen to.
I will not listen to the destructive voices of my past, or the condemning accusations of the evil one about my failures. Instead, I’m keenly aware that any listening to them, at all, can only defeat me, and very swiftly. The Father believes in me and that is what I have passionately decided to hang on to, so that I have courage to live His plans as for me as my Dad.
To fully embrace how the Father sees me, I have decided to do my part by doing whatever it takes to change the way I think. I will keep on doing this, no matter what losses and disappointments come my way. And, I’m not going to put God using me on hold, while I wait for something to happen that looks “important” to me, or “big” to other people. Rather, I’ve decided to do what God says is the most important thing I can ever do, and see those people each day that He wants me to love for Him. I have passionately decided to live and think this way, no matter how small or fleeting any effort to love may seem to me.
It’s also so awesome that I’m never too old for God to use me! Therefore, I am going to live life to the fullest, and as I do, I know the Father will do for me what He did for David and Caleb.
He will “renew my youth like the eagle.”
To help me stay this determined, I will always remember that this is what God did for Caleb:
“I am eighty-five years old and I’m still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me. As my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. So Joshua, give me the Mountain the Lord promised me that day long ago.” Joshua 14:10-12 NASB/NCV Personalized
Finally, Jesus said, “The gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult. Only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:14 NLT Yet, I have decided that though the road is “narrow” and “difficult,” it is worth all the hard choices I ever have to make so that I can stay on the path to freedom, and never drift away from it again.
And although I may “visit” the chicken coop when life gets hard, and I temporarily go backwards during a really difficult struggle. But, I will get out of there just as fast as possible.
I never want to live there again.
When I understood all this about “eagle thinking,” I had so much fun revising the ending of “The Eagle and the Chicken Story.”
Here it is…
Once there was a man who found an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All of his life, the eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did what prairie chickens do.
He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. He flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers, no more than a few feet off the ground. After all, that’s how prairie chickens were supposed to fly.
Years passed, and the eagle grew very old.
One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Gliding with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong, golden wings.
“What a beautiful bird,” said the eagle to his neighbor. “What is it?”
“That’s an eagle, the chief of birds,” the neighbor clucked. “So don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.”
But, something happened!
He saw for the first time who he really was!
He finally realized that the only thing keeping him in the chicken coop was himself.
So, he decided to try.
He spread his wings and rose up like an eagle does. As he did, he left behind the place he had been stuck all his life. Soon he experienced a kindred closeness with other eagles who shared his same longings. Finding them gave him a new courage during the hard times. Walking closely with them helped him to not give up thinking like an eagle, no matter what it would take to do that, and no matter how discouraging life can still be at times.
There were still hardships and hurts to press through. But, they were worth it all because now he was who he was always meant to be.
Being free was scary at times. Yet, he knew he would never go back. He had felt lost most of his life. Now, he felt like he had come back home, to where he belonged.
Sometimes, he did look back at where he used to live. During those moments, it saddened him that it took him so long to leave that place, where he felt so empty and alone.
But then, in the next breath, the sadness became a stunning burst of life, as he celebrated that he didn’t live there anymore.