In my life I have lived in Kansas, and the gulf shores of Texas. I have never lived anywhere near a mountain. So when a few weeks ago I asked for science topics to talk about and one of my Twitter followers mentioned somewhere named “Hawk Mountain”, I was instantly intrigued.
It turns out that this Hawk Mountain is a sanctuary for wild life, specifically birds of prey. It is located in Pennsylvania on part of the Blue Mount Ridge in the Appalachian Mountains. In 1934 a New York activist was upset that hawks were being hunted in this area, so she bought 1400 acres of land including the Hawk Mountain and put a warden on the grounds. The hunting stopped immediately and by the next year this area was open to the public as a non-profit sanctuary. Since then the sanctuary has grown to 2600 acres, and currently works to educate through lectures, workshops, programs and events, while also offering access to its 8+ miles of hiking trails for firsthand learning and observation.
At this sanctuary you can see a number of different birds from hawks to eagles to ospreys to vultures.
When we think of birds flying, we often think of them flapping their little wings very hard so that they can get from point A to point B. This is true for many birds, but when you are a large bird trying to migrate hundreds of miles, you do what you can to conserve energy. For this reason, many “broad-winged” species of birds like eagles, vultures, and buteos (hawks and buzzards) will simply soar on updrafts and thermals to help them travel while flapping their wings a lot less.
With this method, they can travel much farther while using less energy. Many of these large birds can cover 250-300 miles a day. In order to follow these air currents, these birds tend to avoid crossing large bodies of water and will instead follow longer, more indirect routes to their destination.
As we can see on the map below, the hawks do not take the straightest path between New England and South America.
These birds take a much longer path, but it is in their best interest. In the dozens of math classes I’ve taken in my life, it was ingrained in me that the shortest path between two points is a straight line. These birds show us that just because it is the shortest path doesn’t mean it is the best path.
In our lives there are many times where we can look back and see the crazy winding path that got us to where we are now. Often times we can think about what could’ve been, how much easier it would’ve been if we had made a certain change. This is a very human perspective.
Times in our life when the choice was taken from us, though, those instances are much more difficult to understand. We are left with the question, “Why is there suffering?” In my line of work, I get asked it all the time. I honestly can’t answer the why, but I can offer some consoling words. When humans fail, when we make those wrong turns, OR when bad things happen to us, God continues to lift us up so that we can keep going. On our journey, God is quite similar to those air currents. When we get tired or we feel lost, God lifts us up. This makes our journey easier, taking some of the work from us, but it also helps us to have clearer vision. It’s a lot harder to see the end destination when you’re down in the valleys:
But when you are lifted up by the loving hand of God, you can see the beauty of the path and the amazing gifts at the end of the journey.
We are meant to make this journey. We are meant to live beautiful and fulfilling lives. Our God is an all-loving God. He wants you to have life and have it abundantly. On this journey, though, we will find ourselves in valleys. We will have tough times. For many, that time is right now. The important thing is to know that God is there for us, loving us. He will be that wind that lifts us up over the mountains. He will help us make our journey safely. Though we may falter, He will always be there to guide us.
It is precisely those times that seem so difficult that we should look for God.
Taking time to reflect on the goodness of God is one small way we can make any situation better. Another way is to share those blessings. Reach out to one of your friends and discuss this topic with them.
It is always good to reflect on God’s gifts. Plus, it is a great excuse to catch up with friends who you might not be able to see right now.
I’ll leave you with just a few verses that speak to this topic. I hope you will pray with them and share the good news of your blessings with others.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31
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