Learning to Fly

Mornings feel safe to me. Everything is so new and fresh…safe. Recently, I settled into my comfortable space in the bay window enjoying the peacefulness of a new beginning. Welcoming the new day, I listened to the soothing sound of water as it quietly disrupted the surface of the pool. 

Flipping through my calendar, I heard a disturbance outside. We have an abundance of birds in our grand oak trees, but this chattering was more than the usual territorial mockingbird standing his ground. I turned to take notice, then quickly jumped to my feet.

A young bird had hopped under the gate into the patio area. Down feathers topped his little head, although he had a few actual wing feathers to display. He was chirping loudly in frustration and trying desperately to fly. Mama bird was right on his tail, physically prompting him by putting her whole body into every effort, trying to get her little one off the ground. She was making enough noise to scare away any predators while also letting her offspring know she was there with him. This was a classic case of failure to launch. Maybe leaving the nest was intentional, but clearly, he wasn’t quite ready to try his wings.

I saw it coming even before I reached the door. The baby bird clumsily made his way under the pool fence, separating himself from his mother. As she frantically worked to get to him, he continued trying to get off the ground. Just then, following one very brief airborne moment, he landed in the pool. In a sudden moment of silence, the mother bird froze in place, not quite sure what strategy to use next. My heart jumped. I raced through the gate while watching my back, just in case she decided I was more of a threat to her baby than the dangerous swirling water was. 

I grabbed the skimmer net and turned back to the raucous, expecting to see a struggling baby bird beneath the surface. What I saw stopped me in my tracks, and I heard myself laugh. I whispered a quiet “Thank you, God!” In about an inch of water, the flightless baby stood poised on the top tier of the wedding cake steps we installed a few years back. He was as baffled as were his mama and I. She continued squawking, letting him know that although she had distanced herself from me, she was still very attuned to him and his predicament. I carefully approached and slid the net underneath his wet body. Once he was lifted from his wading place, he tried his wings once again and tumbled clumsily onto the patio. 

The chirping and squawking resumed. He needed her, and she was intent on getting to him. I carefully nudged him away from the pool edge and then stepped back, offering him back to her. Within seconds, she was on his tail again, physically trying every way she knew to get him off the ground and airborne. She had no intention of giving up on him as he tumbled back into his flight lesson and a second chance at life.

They disappeared around the corner and all became quiet—no chattering baby bird, no squawking mother. Trying to wrap my head around what had just taken place, I was overcome by the beauty I had witnessed. A mother bird was using all her resources to get her baby off the ground and to safety. He was desperately trying, and crying out for her help. He had flown the nest but was still dependent on her for the food and protection she provided.

I began translating what I had just witnessed.

How many times have I thought I could make it alone, only to find myself unable to take flight?

The more independent I felt the less help I thought I needed. Still, I found myself stranded in swirling water. Those were times I needed reassurance and protection and someone nearby to hear my cry and put their whole body into ensuring my survival.

Those challenges taught me to rely on a protector who gives the reassurance I need, rescues me from hopelessness, and whose living words encourage me when I can’t get airborne. He never gives up on me, knowing I will, in fact, be able to fly again. Thank you, Lord, for sending this beautiful illustration of your faithfulness. You put your whole body into ensuring I will not struggle alone, bringing to me the safety of your presence as I spread my wings with each new morning.

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.