That’s the question that circled through my mind as I prepared to speak at a series of Women that Soar luncheons around the country. For inspiration I studied the life of an eagle, one of the most majestic creatures in the sky. Celebrated for it’s seemingly effortless ability to quickly move through the air, it ascends to heights other birds can only dream about. It has become a symbol of strength, perseverance and grace.
There’s so much to learn from the life of an eagle, but what really intrigued me was how young eaglets learn to soar. When I read it, I thought, “This is it!” This is what I want to speak about at the luncheons. I couldn’t wait for the first event in Dallas so I could share the story.
The mother begins by making the nest uncomfortable, pulling twigs up so the eaglet can’t rest in the nest. Then she starts spreading her wings forcing the eaglet to the edge of the nest. The baby eagle starts to panic and finally holds on to his mother for dear life. The mom then takes off with the eaglet on her back. It must feel like the ride of a lifetime – right up until the eagle dives down and the eaglet comes tumbling off her back.
As the eaglet wildly descends they start to spread their wings, desperately trying to emulate what they’ve seen their parents do. With the ground quickly approaching the mother eagle saves the eaglet in the nick of time. So goes the process until the eaglet learns to use his wings and soar.
It was so awesome! I even came up with analogies that paralleled how we all learn and grow. How those who believed in us pushed us to try new things but provided a safety net if we couldn’t quite get it the first time. I felt like I was soaring as I ended on a high note challenging the audience to continue to teach other young women to soar.
Y’all I was brilliant in the retelling! The crowd was inspired, and I was on cloud nine. I was also wrong as red snow!! Something told me before my next speech I needed to read more on the eagle. As it turns out, what I had shared at the first luncheon was nothing but a Christian Urban Legend. Not a shred of truth in it. Lord, have mercy. I done told these folks the wrong thing.
Well, now I’m in a fix. My close is gone. I’ve been running around telling lies. Lord, what am I supposed to talk about? I mean the truth seemed anticlimactic by comparison.
Basically, the mother stops bringing dinner home. The eaglet can see her circling the nest with the food in her mouth but can’t quite reach her. In desperation it moves closer to the edge of the nest spreading its wings as it tries to jump closer.
At some point, the eaglet’s need for food overcomes its fears and it jumps off the edge of the nest. It has to either shakily soar to a nearby ledge or try for a soft landing on the ground below. Either way, the mother meets them where they are giving them the food they need to try again.
It finally hit me. This is how we all learn to soar! It isn’t because some innate knowledge of how to use our wings kicks in. It’s because something in our life occurs, and suddenly a reserve of strength we never even knew we had propels us forward.
For me it was that moment in college I had to call my mom and tell her I was pregnant. I was so embarrassed. I asked, “Momma can I come home until after I have the baby?” “Oh no,” she said. “You need to go on back to school. You’re going to need an education to take care of this baby.” 6 months later I came home for Christmas. I was big as a house. My mother looked at me and said, “Okay you can stay home.” But by then I had learned I wasn’t going to vaporize from shame so I said, “Nope! I’m going back. But can I bring the baby back to live with you while I finish school?” I so wish I had the words to describe the look on her face. She said, “I am done raising my kids. This is your baby, and he is staying with you. We will help you, but we will not do it for you.”
When Brandon was born, Mommy came to stay with me for a couple of weeks until I could get situated. As she got ready to leave, she stopped at the door and burst into tears. I’m patting her on the back asking “Mommy what’s wrong?” Through sobs she said, “I have to go and you don’t know what you’re doing.” Trying to comfort her I said, “Don’t worry. It’ll be okay.” Meanwhile my brain was screaming. “She’s right. You don’t know what you’re doing. You only babysat one time.”
But when I closed the door, I knew I had to do it. Because there was a baby in the other room that didn’t ask to be here, that I loved with all my heart, and WE deserved my very best. As it turns out, that was my first semester making the Dean’s List. You see I had it in me all along. But it was the quest for survival that brought it out of me.
It wasn’t easy. I certainly made my share of silly, stupid mistakes along the way. However, the few times I got it right taught me a valuable lesson. Success begets success. Every little victory helps us climb higher, until we can eventually make our own nest on high ground.
I share this story for two reasons. The first is to encourage anyone who feels like they have jacked up their life with bad choices to never give up. It’s a well-kept secret, but all the successful, sanctified people you see around you have a trail of questionable choices, struggle and sacrifice in their wake. Believe me, the only way you get to the present is by having a past. But don’t let your past confine or define you. Every day you live gives you another chance to make a better choice.
The second is to inspire others to share their story. No matter where you are in the climb, there is someone looking up to you. Have the compassion to point out the slippery slopes, and the courage to show them the skid marks on your back where you fell and had to climb again.
So many of you have inspired me with your stories. Would you please leave a comment as encouragement to others? We each have something unique and special to offer those that are hurting, without hope, or just beat down by life’s circumstances. Don’t let not having the courage to speak keep you from sowing a seed in the life of another.
Loving on Me as I Love You. ❤