FENTON, MI – The hawk resting on his arm caught my attention. We were on vacation. Think white sand beaches, palm trees, light blue ocean and the love of my life. He walked around the resort, pausing for people to get their picture taken with this hawk. I was intrigued when he let the bird go free for a moment. It flew and perched on a nearby tree. My mind immediately wondered why this magnificent animal didn’t take advantage of his freedom to soar to the heavens. After a few moments, the hawk returned to the outreached, leather padded arm of its trainer.
Then it happened! It was so quick that the trainer couldn’t respond fast enough. The hawk pushed off his arm, flapped his wings to climb a few feet, and then, like a dive bomber descended to the ground. The trainer took off after him and a small crowd quickly gathered to see what was happening and to take pictures. I decided to move closer to see the action as well. The trainer had the hawk on its back, holding him down with his arm stretched across the bird’s chest. With his free hand, the trainer was trying to pry something from the vice-like grip of the hawk’s talons. The hawk was clutching an eight or so inch, light green lizard. The trainer worked meticulously to free the lizard, trying all the time not to crush or hurt either animal.
As the crowd dwindled, I was able to get closer to the action. The hawk, this magnificent hunter of the sky, was clutching onto a child’s toy lizard! It wasn’t real. I imagine that lizards taste good to hawks. That’s why he held on to it with such great tenacity, but the toy was an illusion, an imposter of the real thing. Had the hawk been allowed to keep what he desperately clung to, he would have been sorely disappointed with the first bite.
As I walked away from what appeared to be an epic battle for the hawk, I wondered if I was clinging to anything in life that promises much and delivers nothing. Illusions are everywhere, and are as old as humanity. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6 ASV). We know the end of Adam and Eve’s story and yet, it’s played out in life all around us.
It’s hard to describe what it looked like for the trainer to hold the bird down while he tried to free the toy. The hawk was his livelihood - he obviously did not want to crush or injure it. It may have been a cherished pet. He also did not want the bird to instinctively clamp down on his hand or fingers with his powerful talons. As he bent over the obviously distressed hawk, he also had to stay far enough away that the bird could not peck his face. He calmly, patiently released the toy lizard. And when he did, the hawk was free again.
Truth does that! “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” - Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.