Each January, a marvelous event takes place on the banks of the upper Skagit River near Marblemount, Washington. Hundreds of bald eagles come to the upper Skagit and to other Washington rivers that serve as winter nesting grounds for these majestic birds.
I’ve had the privilege of going there several times to watch the eagles. Armed with binoculars, you can easily locate 10, 20, or even 30 birds at a time, perched in the trees that line the river. If you’re very observant you’ll also be able to pick out immature eagles, their colors much less distinctive, in the trees along with mature parents. The real treat comes when one of the eagles leaves his perch, soars downward, and swoops along the river in search of food. It’s a sight of power, beauty, and majesty that you have to see to truly appreciate.
I’ve watched the eagles a number of times and I’d like to share with you some important observations. In all of the times I’ve watched them, I’ve never seen a bald eagle waddle like a duck, cluck like a chicken, or coo like a dove. And I’ve never seen a bald eagle go scuba diving, operate a tractor or work at a computer.
No doubt most of you are saying to yourself right now (after wondering for a moment if I’ve taken leave of my senses), “Of course he’s never seen bald eagles do those kinds of things and it’s silly to think they would.” And you’re absolutely right.
So why doesn’t a bald eagle do any of those things? It’s simple: the bald eagle knows that he’s a bald eagle and that bald eagles don’t do those things. The bald eagle knows who he is and what that means for how he interacts with every other creature and everything else around him.
The Savior knew who he was, and that knowledge informed his every thought, word and deed. This sure knowledge was apparent early in his ministry when he was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” After fasting for 40 days, Satan tempted him first with relief from what must have been ravishing hunger, then with a miraculous rescue from certain death and the instant fame such an event would produce, and then finally with boundless power and worldly goods. Two of the temptations were even prefaced with the insidious, “If thou be the Son of God.” But Jesus knew who he was and what that meant. He was unmoved by Satan’s offers and dismissed him with a simple, “Get thee hence.”
Do we know who we are? Do we really believe that we are “children of God” (in whatever sense our particular faith may define that) and do we accept the responsibility that accompanies that heritage, that connection to deity? Does the knowledge that we are daughters and sons of God influence our actions, our words, and our thoughts — all day, every day? Do we understand and accept that seeing ourselves as children of God means that we need to view God’s other sons and daughters in the same way?
So how might the knowledge that we are all children of God translate out into action? Let me suggest some possibilities.
If we see everyone as the daughters and sons of God that they are, we might be a little more inclined to assume good intentions, withhold judgment, and give others the benefit of the doubt.
If we see everyone as a child of God, we might be more likely to smile and wave at the person who just “stole” the parking spot we thought we were entitled to. Consider that the other driver may be going through the worst trial of his/her life and desperately needed a win — any win, including one at your expense — today.
If we see ourselves and those around us as children of God, we might take a moment to gaze into the eyes of the person begging on the street corner and see the spark of divinity there. Think about how humiliating it must be to beg and how desperate you would have to feel before you would stand on a street corner and ask strangers for money.
If we see everyone as a child of God, we might be more inclined to treat with respect, kindness, and love those who are different from us — those whose skin is a different color or whose native language is not English, those whose sexuality is different from ours, those who live with disabilities, those who worship differently, etc.
Bald eagles know who they are and what that means for their lives. As sons and daughters of God, shouldn’t we do the same?