Our striving and God’s grace.
The golden eagle circled the sky above the treetops and along a mountainside. Fog drifted lazily down the valley below him, obscuring any small, four legged meals that might be his. But his eyes were not fixed below him. He was looking up, and all he could see was a great, thick mass of clouds that blocked the sun. He had to see the sun.
Climbing higher, he flew into a tuft of cloud, then a wisp and another tuft. But above him hung a gray mass.
He caught an updraft and sailed the mountainside, higher and closer to the gray blanket that smothered the sky. Almost there, he knew the sun would be waiting on the other side. He thrust himself into the clouds.
All around him hung grayish white. His face and feathers moistened and grew cold. The sun is just above. I’ve got to see the sun. He pushed and climbed until the gray began to thin. “I’ve made it!” he cried as he burst into clear air. But looking up he saw no sun. “What?” Wisps of clouds like horsetails swirled above, and beyond them a hazy ceiling of clouds floated still higher. Looking down, he saw the mountaintop poking through the thick blanket, but above him no sun.
As he wondered about his predicament, he felt the air under his wings was thinning and becoming harder to breathe. But that would not stop him. He would find the sun.
Further he pushed, panting and heaving his wings upward. Past the horsetail wisps and into the hazy white air above he struggled. He could see a burning light through the white sky—the sun was just beyond him. “Push!” he told himself. “Push!”
His wings grew stiff and numb, and his lungs were heaving but still felt like they were hardly breathing at all. Upward he strained, but the thin air offered little for his wings to beat against. The sun was still just a vague spot of brightness, and all around him hung a nebulous white. Delirious now, he pleaded with himself. “Don’t give up. Don’t give—” Too dizzy to think, he felt the sky turn dark. The sun, even the white all around him was shut out, and there was nothing.
He felt himself . . . falling, falling. The light came back as he found himself tumbling in a reckless ball of head and tail, wings and claws, tangled and spinning, helplessly plunging to the earth. He tried to spread his wings to break his fall, but they would not stretch.
“Help!” he cried to no one in particular. “Help! Oh, help!” But no one could slow his plummet. Through the gray blanket of clouds he streaked, and in the clearing below he could see the valley.
He strained his wings outward just an inch. Then another. He stretched his feet as the wind raged through his feathers. The valley floor seemed to rush toward him murderously fast. Pushing his wings out just a bit more, he thrashed a pine bow. Needles and feathers sprayed as he bounced off bough after bough. In one last somersault his back hit the carpet of brown pine needles under the trees. Then everything was dark again.
When the light came back, he lay still. He did not know how long it had been or if he could move. He blinked his eyes. The sky had changed. His blurred sight slowly cleared until he could see that the gray blanket had torn some holes. Beyond it was blue sky.
The holes grew larger as they spread across the wind. Then a light broke through, and a flash of sun blinded his eyes. Warm rays bathed his whole body. “Oh my,” the eagle sighed. “After all that. After all that.” He only lay there, enjoying the touch of the sun’s rays.
For Thought and Discussion
- Religion might be classified by striving to attain something from God or for God. How does the parable exemplify this, and how does it occur in real life? What is the problem with striving to obtain favor from God? How does Romans 3:23 clarify this?
- A relation with God is as much about receiving as it is about giving or striving. How does the parable exemplify this, and how does the Bible describe it? Name and explain as many Bible verses as you can that describe what God has done for us in Christ. How does Ephesians 2:8–9 tie them all together?
- How have you striven in religious ways? Describe experiences you have had of freely receiving God’s grace.