Have you ever heard of a Muir? Muirs are aquatic seabirds who spend most of their life either flying above or swimming under the ocean waters. At breeding time, they fly to a steep rocky island in the frigid Arctic to build their nest and raise their young. Thousands of these birds scratch out nests on the sheer-faced cliffs, 1000 feet above the icy waters. Packed together they lay their eggs and raise their young.
The female Muir takes primary responsibility for the chick in the nesting area, guarding it from predatory foxes and feeding it until the chick is able to walk. Suddenly, as if some secret signal is given, the whole colony of Muirs knows it is time to migrate and fly south, before the approach of winter. But every year that call comes before the fledglings are able to fly. They have to swim out of the Arctic to find safety and food.
At about the same moment, an amazing thing takes place. It is the father birds that begin pushing and prodding the youngsters out of the nest. The father bird then escorts the fledgling through the crowded nesting area, protecting it from the sharp bills of the other Muirs disturbed by their movement. When father and child arrived at the cliffs edge, 1000 feet above the icy waters, the papa Muir gives his fledgling a firm nudge sending it hurtling down into the sea. The father bird immediately takes to the air and accompanies his chick into the water. Fortunately, the Creator has prepared the fledgling with a thick downy coat and it lands softly and safely into the gathering colony of birds.
The father and child then swim together, southward, and they stay together until the young bird is able to fly and continue the journey in the air with the rest of the colony of Muirs.
I recently went through the parental trauma of sending my only daughter, the baby of the family (even at 26 years of age) off on her own to the big city where she has begun new ministry responsibilities which are stretching and maturing her. I have been consciously reminding myself every day of something I read years ago: “Parents provide their children with two gifts; the gift of roots and the gift of wings.”
Certainly there is a great deal of shared responsibility between parents when it comes to raising their children. But I am struck by the fact that the Muir family points out a truth that I have observed many times.
It seems to me as though Mothers provide children with nests and roots, an embracing love which nurtures growth. And it has been my experience, and observation, that fathers are most likely to guide (or push) children out of their nest and teach them how to fly.
In God’s love for His creation, I also see these two sides of parental love, roots & wings. For example, in the creation story God is like a mother, creating and nurturing her new-born children. Like a good mother, God bears their pain and lives with great patience as the infant “first family” struggle out of Eden. God even sews their first garments, clothing Adam and Eve for their journey into life.
This nurturing mother-like love is evident in much of Jesus ministry, as Jesus goes about the villages of Galilee teaching and healing. “And when He saw the crowds of people Jesus had compassion for them because they were like children, like sheep without a shepherd.” “And when He saw the crowds of people Jesus had compassion for them because they were like children, like sheep without a shepherd.”
And so with a mother’s love, Jesus reached out to them healing every infirmity. Through His compassion he rooted them in God s divine love.
The other side of God s love is clearly evident as well. Like a loving Father, God pushed and cajoled His people out of slavery in Egypt and into a new world where they could grow and live in freedom. After crossing the Red Sea, they gathered together at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God called Moses up to the top and said, “Moses, you have seen how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you out of Egypt and slavery, and into a land of Freedom. Now Moses, they are all yours, and remember, I will be with you always.” But this new found freedom was not easy for the Israelites, for they were like fledgling birds, (or in human terms, like teenagers), and Moses had to become their father lovingly pushing, cajoling, and sometimes threatening them into adulthood. After 40 long years, they finally made it to the land God had prepared for them where they spread their new-found wings and flew.
I heard the story of a father who had given his daughter a special T-shirt to wear in her first marathon race. On it was written in bold letters: Isaiah 41.31 “The lord is an everlasting God, He gives power to the faint hearted. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary.” What a beautiful and appropriate gift from a father to his child.
During his ministry, Jesus often sent his disciples out into the world to practice their ministry and develop wings. At one point, ” Jesus called to Himself the 12 and sent them out, two by two. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff, sandals and a tunic.”
Like a good father, He was preparing them for the tough years of ministry which lay ahead. Indeed, His final words to them were! “Go out into the world, make disciples of all nations, baptize and teach them.” And then, just as God had said to Moses at Sinai, Jesus said to his disciples, “Remember – I am with you always.”
Isn’t that the bottom line? Throughout these biblical stories of parental love, whether Roots or Wings, the promise is always there, often stated clearly, always implied, “Remember, I am with you always!”
In what ways have you experienced the Roots and Wings principles in your own walk with God?