This post first appeared last year. When I reread it this morning, I realized that it means something different to me today than it did last year. And since it’s still January, I reflected: In the last year, did I rise?
The story of the eagle who thought he was a chicken is a reminder to all of us that we are gifted by God with our dreams and our freedom, and no human law can strip us of those gifts.
On Sunday at Mass, our visiting priest from Tanzania told this story:
A farmer was given an egg. He didn’t know what kind of an egg it was so he put it with his chickens and waited to see what might happen.
The egg hatched. It was an eagle. But the eagle didn’t know he was an eagle, so he grew up as a chicken.
One day a wild eagle landed nearby and said “Friend, what are you doing among the chickens?” And the eagle said “I AM a chicken.” The wild eagle shook his head. “No, my friend. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. You can fly. You can hunt. The world is yours.” But the eagle said “I have always been here, in this coop, eating corn and termites. I know nothing about those other things. I am a chicken.”
The wild eagle flew away. But the next day he came back. “You know what life is like as a chicken, cooped and corn and termites. Come with me for one week and see what life is like as an eagle.”
The eagle agreed to one week, and the two eagles flew away. For a week, the eagle flew as high as the heavens and saw all the world below him: mountains, oceans, prairies, lakes. He hunted fiercely and visited nests built in the tops of the tallest trees and clinging to the steepest cliffs. He saw all the vagaries of life and death, beauty and pain, courage and fear.
But at the end of the week, he went back to the chickens.
The wild eagle flew after him. “What are you doing?” he asked. “You’ve lived the life of an eagle! Why would you go back to the chickens in their coop, eating corn and termites and never having the chance to fly???”
And the eagle said “I like the chickens. I belong with the chickens. I am a chicken.”
The world calls us to be chickens, content in our cages, heads down, eating what we are fed.
But we are not chickens.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are beloved children of God.
We are eagles.
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
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