“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles…” Isaiah 40:31
We are still in the dead of winter as I write this, but spring is definitely coming as snow and rain interchange, and we’ve had our first nearly 60-degree day. In our backyard, squirrels are calling and chasing one another and owls hooting songs from our neighbors’ trees. One hundred feet high and mere yards from our bedroom windows, a resident bald eagle pair is putting the finishing touches on their new abode.
Mama eagle, named Ginger (as a family of dancers we couldn’t resist), is roosting in the nearly six-foot-wide nest in the tallest White Pine nearest our rooftop. Her regal head looks around, proudly guarding her territory. She doesn’t seem to mind the rest of us who live here, with our music and occasional bonfire. She watches us come and go, cocks her head to the side when I call for her and wave. She cries to papa eagle, named Gene, who swoops in with another beak full of fuzzy nest liners of bush and bramble to insulate their new home. Rumor has it that eagles can lay eggs as early as February, even before the cold days leave and other animals fully wake from hibernation. And, Gene and Ginger seem to be ready for parenthood.
Last year, Ginger was not so fortunate. She and her former partner, Fred, tried fervently to build a proper nest, but storm after storm, tore it apart, sadly…branch by branch. By April, our whole yard held its remnants. Then something happened to Fred. The entire summer we watched Ginger come and go, alone, with no sign of her mate in sight. She sat and ate meals of rabbit and pike by our patio. Her sense of loneliness was obvious. By autumn we assumed her partner had either left or passed away.
Online research told us that eagles mate for life. The female chooses their home, and if her significant other leaves or dies, she often stays put, waiting to find another life partner to approve of her home. But after a warm Fall of going it solo, by November, Ginger gave up, abandoned her nest, probably for a warmer winter hiding spot by the Minnesota River Valley. We missed her calls and cries outside our window at Christmas and didn’t know if she’d ever return.
Happily mid-January she came back, with a new mate, a freshly fortified nest and a renewed hope for a future with promise of little eaglets likely by spring.
A dear friend’s daughter recently died after many years of a suffering illness. The morning she passed, I saw the eagle pair soaring free in the horizon, and I was reminded of scripture and God’s provision for us of wings, like eagles, to shelter us and bear us up in times of trouble and loss. Eagles are praised as the most attentive parents of all the bird species and perhaps the greatest teachers of their young. God, our heavenly Father, is continually providing for us, teaching us, and has built the ultimate nest for us to abide with Him in our eternal home.
Through her loss last year, Ginger never gave up hope. She came back, rebuilt her nest, and started anew. For me, this eagle is not just a symbol of God’s strength, but also one of resilience, not unlike that of the disciples in scripture or my dear friend and her brave daughter. Each reminds me to never give up in times of trial or loss.
So remember Ginger’s story and God’s promise. Hold fast to hope through the storms, even when your earthly nest seems to be torn in two, or you find yourself alone. God is here with us, faithful and true. And like an eagle, God covers us, protects us, provides for us and will lift us up on wings so we may soar.
Original publication: Gethsemane Gazette Newsletter March 2017