It’s not a sight you’d expect to see, here in the foothills of the Ozarks. The lush wooded landscape, along with the numerous rivers and creeks that crisscross the valleys and hollows hereabouts, doesn’t bear much resemblance to the cactus and sand-smothered expanses of the desert.
Nonetheless, I know what I saw with my own eyes. While on a longish bicycle ride last week, I actually had to shake my head for a moment in unbelief.
Surely it was my favorite childhood cartoon come to life! Up ahead on the road as I crested a hill, a roadrunner stood, poised for flight.
Well, not for flight.
The earthbound birds prefer to outrun their predators with their strong and speedy legs instead of using their wings. They can run as fast as 20 miles an hour when pursued.
The thing is, I can ride my bicycle faster than 20 miles per hour. Downhill, anyway. And, I was headed straight for the unfortunate creature as he stood downhill from me.
All Wile E. Coyote-ish, I sped right toward the sprinter.
He, knowing that danger was approaching, ran for all he was worth. I gained quickly. I don’t know if he reached his top speed, but I do know I nearly ran him down.
Zig-zagging all over the road, he gave me no clear path to pass. It was evident that every instinct told the poor bird I was a predator, intent on his destruction. Regardless of the fact I was more intent on avoiding him than running him down, he only knew the terror that being close to death can bring.
At the last second, just before my wheels caught him up, the tricky fellow did the only thing he could do—the one thing he may not have known he had the ability to do—he flew up and off the pavement into the low-hanging branches of a maple tree that hung over the fence about twenty or thirty feet away..
The bird that I have always believed could simply avoid any pursuer by out-running it, flew.
Any lingering thought of the Warner Brothers cartoon bird from my youth disappeared from my consciousness with the suddenness of a pricked balloon exploding.
The bird didn’t push the Acme weights off the cliff onto me, didn’t draw a railroad tunnel on the side of a cliff for a train to blast out of and flatten me, didn’t light the wick on a rocket to launch me into the stratosphere.
He flew away.
Gone. Just like that. Disappeared from my sight.
One moment, certain destruction—the next, salvation from on high.
Dare I say anymore? Need I?
Perhaps a word or two.
I’m not the only one who has felt the terror of late; I’ve seen it in the eyes of others. Many see all chance of escape disappearing from their sight.
Some fear for their future, others for their children’s. Aged and hardened old men weep in the darkness for the loss of their loved ones. Young men and women despair of hope.
All run as fast as they can, hoping for escape, but pursued relentlessly by their terror. There is no escape to be found.
I’ve written recently of the wings of eagles and the ability to run without tiring. They are a gift from God and there is hope in His strength. (Isaiah 40:31)
But, what if there is another way? What if the wings and the strong, untiring muscles are not meant to be tools for retreat, but a means of facing the powers that threaten us?
Perhaps, it is time, not for flight, but to fight. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
And yet, I can’t help thinking there is one more thing to be said.
What was it, now? Let me see…
Oh yes. I’m wondering if we’re all that good at identifying our enemies.
The birdbrain that ran away from me on the road that day thought I was his. I wouldn’t have harmed a feather on his body.
I wasn’t his enemy. At all.
Sometimes, fear makes our enemies seem stronger than they are. It even manufactures enemies where there are none.
Perhaps, after all, it is time for us just to stand.
Stand and see the salvation of the Lord.
Neither fight nor flight.
Just plain faith.
Salvation is certain.
He that flies counts every foeman twice.
(from The Two Towers ~ J.R.R.Tolkien ~ English author ~ 1892-1973)
But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!
(2 Chronicles 20:17 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.