Alan Walker was an Australian Methodist pastor and administrator in the 60’s and 70’s, at a time when there was great anxiety over communism and wars and international tensions across the world. Fear of nuclear proliferation was widespread then as it is now. He was a pacifist who believed that people trusted God too little and relied too heavily on their own understanding. He wrote in 1972 in “God, The Disturber”:
“The most important fact in the universe is expressed in the three-letter word GOD. After all, what we believe about God determines what we believe about everything else. And it goes deeper than the intellect. We grow like the gods we worship. Therefore, no more important question can be asked about men and women than, “What conception of God is held in their minds and emotions?”
In the Old Testament God is described in an unusual image. He is likened to an eagle. In Deuteronomy 32 are these words: “As an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, God spread abroad his wings, he took them, he bore them on his pinions.”
The eagle, of course, has always had a strange fascination for people. It takes its place in ancient mythologies. It is on the crest of emblems of nations, as in America. No wonder, for the eagle, the king of the birds, is capable of flying far in search of food, is able, it is said, to pick up a young pony and carry it in its claws through the air.
Nothing is so interesting about the eagle as its nesting habits. It chooses a ledge of rocks and there builds its nest, usually laying two eggs. When the birds become old enough to be taught to fly, it is said that the eagles will push the nest off the ledge, will break it up. So, pushed out of the cozy security of the nest, the two young eaglets have to fend somewhat for themselves. They are enticed to try to jump of that ledge and to attempt to fly. It is said that sometimes if a young eagle will not take the plunge the older bird will push it off. If it tumbles and is unable to use is fledgling wings, the bigger bird will sweep underneath it, catch it on its wings, and carry it on its back and start the flying lesson again.
Moses says that God is like an eagle. Giving his last message to the children of Israel, Moses looks back over the way God has led them through the desert; he looks forward to the fulfillment of the promise that has come to them. He says, “What, don’t you see, God is like an eagle? We have seen the eagles as we’ve wandered through the desert. God is like that; as an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, so is God.”
What is Moses trying to tell us? First, he is saying that God is a disturber of the peace, but that the purpose of his disturbance is love.
In the Bible, in our hymns, and in our devotional literature, God is often presented as a place of security, a place for hiding in the day of trouble. He is presented as a shield, a buckler, a fortress, and a rock of salvation. And he is. There are times in our lives when we are overwhelmed if God is not somebody against whom we can shelter. But have not exhausted the meaning of God when we make him a place for hiding. God is not only the maker of nests, he is the disturber of nests……
God is stirring in the world today. We are in a time of great upheaval and sometimes we become frightened. We give strange names to the upthrust of the poor and oppressed of the earth. We say, “Ah, the Communists must be there.” What if the ferment is not communism? What if it is God? What if the winds of change are the breath of God? It would be true to his nature, for God is forever stirring up the world.
God is at work in our time. I do not see this as a period of distress and of regression. I see it as a great moment in human history when God is stirring up his nest and pushing us off the ledge, bidding us seek a greater life together.
We are living in great days, and we should be done with timidity and negativism. God is in it all. As an eagle that stirs up its nest, so is God. God is the disturber of the peace.
Go back to the picture of the eagles. Cannot you see them? The nest is disturbed, pushed off the ledge. The little eagles are running along that ledge, peering over that gap, wondering whether they can take the plunge. One of them has an inferiority complex. He cannot find the courage to jump. So he is pushed. There is now out there plunging, trying his wings.
What is the purpose of the uncomfortable, pushing off the ledge? What, that there may come an ability to fly. The only way that eagle will learn to fly will be to take the plunge of faith. He has to trust himself to the air. He will never fly by huddling back on the ledge. He has to take the plunge.
That is what God is asking of you and me – that we go forth in faith, taking the plunge into the future that is unknown. He asks us to go out in faith, in confidence. This is his purpose.”
Walker goes on to describe dealing with youth and students, hearing their discussions of God and faith:
“Is there a God? What is he like? When I hear these discussion I often want to say, “Remember you will never find god at the end of a logical argument.” You will never find the reality of God just by arguing about him. The moment will come when you will have to jump off the ledge and take a plunge of faith. “I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
Until we take the plunge we can never find the reality of god. It is only as we say, “I believe,” that we shall find there is a reality about God. Beginning to live as though there is a God, we discover there is a God. There is no other way than the plunge of faith.”
Today as I worked in the yard, I spotted an eagle in the sky over Deer Point Lake. It’s not uncommon to see them around our area. Some of our students at Titus 2 have also seen them. One day one swept down and grabbed a small animal, a possum or a rat I think, and flew straight down the length of our street after picking up his prey.
I have this conversation from time to time with women who are struggling with faith. Some are like that timid eagle pacing on the ledge. Sometimes one simply has to be pushed. I have watched as God sometimes pushed them into uncomfortable situations, then proved his loving care in bringing them through it. It is a faith-building exercise……getting pushed off a ledge to test one’s wings. I encourage them to grow in their knowledge and trust of God and, when they feel anxious, distressed, and fearful, to simply stand still and wait. If God is doing a work that requires growth of faith, he’ll push you. But in the pushing, he will also come up under you and will carry you until you spread your wings and fly or will carry you to a point of safety to begin the lesson again.