The other day I decided at the last minute to go somewhere I hadn’t planned on going. It’s not so important where I went, other than the fact that it wasn’t my plan to do so, but more like I was compelled to do so at the last minute. The other important detail about this is that, leaving that place, I was driving somewhere not unknown to me, but somewhere I would not otherwise have been at that day and time.
It was because of this strange compelling and because I was at this particular time and place that I met him. Well, “met” is a strong word here and I doubt he remembers me at all, but from my perspective, I met him that day.
He was holding up traffic. We were going through a light and just past the intersection cars were swerving out of the left lane and into the right lane. Fortunately, not only were there two lanes, but the right lane is rarely used as it quickly funnels into the left lane and us locals know that. I say fortunately for a couple reasons, not the least of which is that, when I got to the spot where everyone swerved, my eyes were so captivated by the reason for the swerving, I honestly don’t remember checking the right lane at all as I moved my large truck right into it.
I may not remember much about changing lanes and basic driving safety and awareness, but I do remember him and the look he gave each of us as we drove past him. Fierce. Challenging. Unblinking. It was as if he was boldly daring each and every car and driver to even think about making him move. He was just a hawk, not even a large eagle, an average hawk – small by comparison to a car, but I assure, his presence was so large and commanding that no one would have missed that he was there and gotten so close as to make him move.
He was standing on top of something, a fresh kill it seemed, but I was so captivated by his stare down that I couldn’t have told you what he had under his claws. It was as if he looked right through the windows of my car and into my soul with that unblinking gaze.
I may have been too captivated by him and his fierce beauty to check before I swerved out of my lane (or at least to remember doing so) but I wasn’t so captivated that I forgot that there was a line of cars behind me. I couldn’t just stop in the middle of the road to watch him, but I wanted to. As I drove on, I kept wondering about him. How long did he stay in the road? How close would a car have to get before he’d move? Would he move if it meant giving up his catch? What would he risk to keep it? What did he have, anyway? And most importantly (or at least most selfishly), if I went back, could I get a picture of him?! A mile or so down the road, I couldn’t stop wondering about him. I was hungry and on my way to lunch, but I realized it would haunt me forever if I didn’t circle back and see what he was up to. I tried to talk myself out of it – surely he’d moved on by now anyway and it would be for nothing…but if it was, I’d turn around again and go eat lunch. At least I’d know I wasn’t missing anything. But really, I just couldn’t stand the questions in my brain … I had to know. Because, what if he was still there?! And he was. Well, not right there, but close. He’d moved from the center of the road to the sidewalk, a car lane and a half over to the West, so what, like 10-12 feet away? He didn’t even both to go another foot or so to get into the grass. He was hungry…and he had a fresh rabbit to eat.
I parked my car nearby and walked across the road to watch him. I’m sure I looked looney…out in the freezing cold with boots and a skirt and sweater, standing in the sidewalk, sometimes squatting in the sidewalk, taking pictures with my camera phone for a good 30 minutes or more. If I’m honest, I was even talking to him a bit, as if he understood. I felt a bit subconscious – it was a busy intersection for our little town and I felt very much on display standing on the corner like that…but then, there was a part of me that wondered, how in the world was I the only one there watching him? I mean, come on, Colorado is the place for all kinds of nature nuts! If there was ever a place where people were likely to stop their car to get out and watch a hawk eating a rabbit from a mere 3 feet away, Colorado was it! No one did, although one woman did slow and roll her window down and watch for a minute and ask me, “Is that your hawk?” That seemed comical to me – like I was out for a walk with my pet hawk and just stopped so he could eat a little rabbit, no different than waiting for my dog to poop. But it goes to show you how odd I looked out there with “my” hawk.
As I stood there watching him eat, I was struck by all kinds of things about how he ate, and how it was a metaphor for how we are to feast upon the word of God. Here’s what he taught me.
- He had a fresh kill. He wasn’t scavenging off of some old kill. This was fresh.
- Not only was the rabbit a fresh kill, but it was his kill. It wasn’t someone else’s kill or road kill…he had done the work himself.
- He would not be moved. He’d found something good, nourishing, sweet… Danger was no deterrent; the meat was priority.
- He took time to feast. He spent about 40 minutes pulling it apart and eating it, piece by piece.
- He didn’t just eat the easy stuff, either. The eating was work. It’s hard to break bones and rip a rabbit apart. In fact, the first thing he ate were the brains…which could only be reached through the skull. It’s not like he just went in through the soft stomach and ate internal organs only. He worked at eating…because the good stuff can’t be reached without the work.
- Not only did he work to get to the good stuff, but he ate the hard stuff, too. He ate it all, even the bones. He didn’t cherry pick the easy or the sweet stuff, he ate it all because it was all nourishing for him. If he was to grow, he had to eat the hard stuff, too.
- He focused as he ate. He didn’t seem to care what enemies might be nearby, what dangers, what opportunist scavengers…he was undistracted by it all. He was eating. Cars were zooming by, other birds and critters were circling around, all hoping to enjoy his hard-earned meal, I got within 3 feet of him, taking pictures…he was undeterred. (I probably could have gotten closer—he seemed to not care, but I didn’t want to have to explain how I lost my eye… But I’m not gonna lie – I was curious how much it would take before he’d react, and maybe if I hadn’t been on a public street corner full of witnesses I might have tried to find out.) Anyway – point being, when he ate, the meal received his undivided attention.
- He may not have been easily distracted from his meal, nor drawn away from it by stupid arguments or teasing from other creatures, or passing threats…but let’s be clear, he was unquestionably ready to fight to keep his treasure. I saw that when I first drove past him and he risked his life in the middle of that road to keep it, openly defying every vehicle and driver that went past, no matter how much bigger than himself. He was wise. He was able to discern distractions from real threats. Passing cars, other birds, even myself coming up to take pics – he wasn’t oblivious to those things, but he chose not to be distracted by them, knowing that by comparison, the larger danger was that he would be distracted from his nourishment. If, however, one of those idle threats had become an actual danger, he would have fought the threat just as diligently and fiercely as he’d fought against distractions. Either way, he was going to fight to be sure he received the nourishment he needed. That was the most important thing.
- He ate his fill, and then there were left overs for others. He ate the majority of that rabbit, but the kill was large enough to bless not only him, but a host of other birds waiting in the distance. Because of his skill and discipline and even his hunger, others were blessed.
I don’t want to insult your intelligence by pointing out what seems obvious to me, so I won’t recap point by point how all of this applies to the spiritual life, but, as I said before, while I was watching him eat that rabbit it was like God was telling me, this is how I want you to feast on my Word…and if you do so, not only will you be filled, your hunger sated, but others will be nearby, watching, waiting, hoping for the crumbs you leave behind… and because of your hunger and your discipline in my Word, others will be blessed as well. And the same is true for you.