Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gentle as a Hawk

Years ago, we had a friend, Luke,  who trained hawks and he sometimes brought his favorite over to the empty field beside our house to exercise and train him. I never forgot the way they looked. The bird would perch on the leather gauntlet Luke wore on his arm, lean over to nuzzle into Luke's neck, and stare at us. Just stare. With those beady eyes, looking down that hooked beak. And he kept staring, looking like he was ready to tear us apart the same way he'd just torn apart a mouse or some other dainty we'd watch him catch.

But the bird loved Luke. He obeyed him and delicately took treats from his hands. He looked like he wanted to tear my head off, but at the very same time he showered affection on his trainer. He always seemed to me a study in contradictions, but now that I think of it, maybe not. Maybe he was simply an illustration.

The fact is that I am sometimes very much disturbed by the military imagery and examples in the Bible. I don't like them and don't want to study them. But they're there, and I can't ignore them.

God tells us that we are to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13), and that we are to take sides.
Whoever is not with me is against me.--Matthew 12:30
Our faith brings us into conflict:
If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.--John 15:18
It makes us choose:
Choose today whom you will serve-Joshua 24:15
It makes us find one way and one way only, leaving the rest behind.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a word behind you saying, "This is the way. Walk in it."--Isaiah 30:21

The Bible unveils so much battle, so much warring between good and evil. It just leaves me wanting a time of peace, but doesn't promise it any time soon.
They give assurance of peace when there is no peace.--Jeremiah 8:11

How is it possible, then, to wear the unfading beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit? (1Peter 3:4) How am I to learn to be calm and tender when I am also to be arming myself for war? 

And then I remember Luke's hawk.
How he loved and nuzzled his owner.
I remember its eyes after Luke removed the hood that covered its head while they traveled--how it looked at me with cold challenge, sinister and dangerous.
He scared me, not because he intentionally wanted to, but because he could do nothing else. He was always armed for battle and it showed. His threat was always part of him. Even if he did nothing but sit on Luke's arm, wings folded back, talons tense on the gauntlet.

The hawk did not inspire gentleness or mercy. Instead, he inspired caution and warning. I didn't want to get anywhere near him.

But Luke did. Luke knew what the hawk would do, when he would do it, and to whom. He knew that the hawk, with all it's power to hurt, even to kill, could also sit quietly by his side, content to wait with him. To Luke, the hawk was indeed quiet and gentle.

When I think of a gentle bird, I think most readily of a dove--its soft, grey song, nearly a moan, and its soft round profile. A dove has almost no hard edges and it harms nothing. She is quiet. She is calm. She is gentle.
Not the hawk. Even while the hawk sits silent, it carries a mute threat.

So, who is gentler--the dove that cannot hurt, or the hawk that can but chooses to refrain? And which kind of gentleness does the Bible tell us to wear?

Me, I'd prefer to be like the dove--harmless and full of grace. But I don't think I'm given that option.

I am supposed to be a warrior, skilled in destruction, single minded in defense of the Truth. I am to arm myself for battle and be ready to attack when my master gives me direction. I am not allowed pacific helplessness. I am not allowed to let others fight a battle for which God instructs me to prepare and, when necessary, to fight.

God made doves, but He did not make us doves. Doves do not arm themselves, but I must.
I am told to be humble, but also not to faint when tested.
I am told to be charitible, but also to reject whoever rejects God.
I am told to be kind, forgiving, and meek, but to stand for the Lord.

I am told to be a hawk.
Quiet until the time for action comes.
Controlled and focused until I am released.
Peaceful until the day of battle arrives.

Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and,when you have done everything, to stand.--Ephesians 6:13


  1. I just loved this post. You have a way with words. I am a retired Army Officer so I'm trained to capture the thoughts of war and value them. A man too great at peace will find the enemy at his doorstep and he will be too weak to fight to good fight. The battle is the Lord's, but we His servants are to be ready for whatever comes our way just like the Hawk on Luke's shoulder. He wasn't picking a fight - he was setting up a defensive perimeter. Thanks again for your honest, well thought out words of encouragement.

    1. My husband served as Special Forces in Vietnam and we often have discussions about how Christians are to preserve for and long for peace in a world where we are encouraged to be prepared in every circumstance. Dave is so often frustrated that Christians interpret God's directions to mean they be doormats. I like your analogy of a defensive perimeter. I'm going to have to show it to him.

  2. God has revealed something beautiful to you, JoAnne. How blessed you are to see this illustration! "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

    1. Thanks, June. Wise as serpents and harmless as doves is just one of those things that seems pretty hard to walk. Thanks for your encouragement.