Bald Eagles: A Prayer Letter by Nancy Snyder

Bald Eagles: A Prayer Letter by Nancy Snyder

Dear Partner in the Gospel and the Kingdom:

I don’t write to you about the work for which you support us because every letter would say: “Chuck read seminary books while taking notes at his office computer.  For variety, Chuck took his computer to the living room, where he read and took notes.  Chuck and Nancy translated those notes.  Nancy edited the notes, while Chuck edited the videotapes.  Chuck read (again) and took notes (again) so we could do the same thing (again) the next day.”  So, I’ll remind you to think of us if you need a house sitter (because it refreshes us to do the same old thing in a brand new place), and I’ll write about bald eagles.

I have heard about bald eagles.  I have heard that their talons strike with a force that is twice as strong as a rifle’s bullet.  I have heard that they can fly carrying a fawn home for supper.

I have seen bald eagles.  I have squinted through binoculars to glimpse them, while they have spotted me — and everything else a mile beneath them (Job 39:29).

I have thought that being under the shadow of God’s wing is, by definition, a dark place, especially if the comparison is to an eagle’s 96 inch wingspan.  Bald eagles, however, have approximately 7,000 feathers.  So, Deuteronomy 32, which likens us to eaglets under God’s wings, speaks of a soft and tender place.  Because Christ took the tearing of the talons, we are cushioned under the wing.

Deuteronomy 32:10 says that God rescues His people from the “waste howling wilderness.”  That brings to mind the rescue the eagles made in The Hobbit:

The wolves yammered and gnashed their teeth; the goblins yelled and stamped with rage,

and flung their heavy spears in the air in vain. Over them swooped the eagles; the dark rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor or drove them far away; their talons tore at goblin faces. Other birds flew to the tree-tops and seized the dwarves, who were scrambling up now as far as ever they dared to go.

Poor little Bilbo was very nearly left behind again! He just managed to catch hold of

Dori’s legs, as Dori was borne off last of all; and they went together above the tumult and

burning, Bilbo swinging in the air with his arms nearly breaking.

Although we sometimes sway wildly — gullies and gulches spiraling below — we will never be left behind.  Even when we are not above the tumult and burning, but jangle-dangled and smoke-choked, God carries us.

The Deuteronomy passage goes on:

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, God spreads His wings and

catches us.  He carries us on His pinions.  (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)

In the following patchwork of quotes, Lilias Trotter compares the eagle stirring up its nest (to help its eaglets learn to fly) with our walk, and sometimes freefall, of faith:

The face of the cliff goes sheer down — how can it venture into that great gulf, with untried wings?

But it gathers up its courage at last, and dashes out. There is the giddy depth below, its strength is

failing already; one or two feeble flaps, and it drops down — down — a moment more, and, all unseen,

it does not know whence, strong warm wings are beneath, and it is being borne a long way up into a

place of safety. The mother bird has swooped underneath it. There was no risk after all!”

… it is an older faith that learns to swing out into nothingness and drop down full weight on God – the

broken up nest of former “experiences” left behind – nothing between us and the abyss but Himself – a rejoicing  in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true – the Lord alone – that is trained faith.”

After God finds us in the howling wilderness, He compasses us about, cares for us, and keeps us as the apple of His eye.  As a Deaf person cherishes his eyes, God cherishes us.  According to Hendrickson’s Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, a literal translation of this Deuteronomy 32 passage would read, “He guards us as ‘the little man in the eye’ (one’s own reflection in the pupil of another’s eye).  Because we were created to reflect God’s image and were re-created to better reflect God’s image, God sees in us a cherished little reflection of His goodness.

Last summer, I heard a bald eagle sing.  I had always assumed they had a rasping cry like a hawk with a microphone.  But, no, like a songbird on steroids, this king of birds sings.  More astonishing still, the King of kings sings over us:

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.        Zephaniah 3:17.

Even the song of the eagle in the sky is too wonderful for me (Proverbs 30:19).  How can I know the One who ascended into heaven and descended, gathered the wind in His fists, wrapped the waters in His garment, established all the ends of the earth (Proverbs 30:4), and sings over us?  Only by His condescending grace, as He squeezes His goodness into stone tablets, swaddling cloths, commandments, and communion wine.

God sings over us, though we are but a handbreadth.  Handbreadths refined in the fire ’til, salty and bright, we shine as “little men in the eye” of God.  Handbreadths boiled in the Spirit, perfumed and poured out.

Recently, while interpreting a conference, I signed this stanza of “The Church’s One Foundation”:

Though with a scornful wonder

we see her sore oppressed,

by schisms rent asunder,

by heresies distressed,

yet saints their watch are keeping;

their cry goes up, “How long?”

I burst into tears.  How long until the Bride is beautified?  How long until the marriage supper of the Lamb?  How long until the ransomed from every tribe and language and people and nation worship before the throne?

According to Revelation 12, God gives the church the wings of an eagle to fly into the wilderness (once howling, now a haven), to be nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent, in the midst of the battle for her children.

May He satisfy your years with good things, so that your vigor is renewed like the eagle,

until “the night of weeping shall be the morn of song,”

Chuck & Nancy

If you can’t hear an eagle sing in the wild, may these websites lead you to worship the One who made the eagle and sings over you with joy:

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