Against a patch of clear blue sky, a sparrowhawk swivelled and soared, catching the airflow on fluted wings. Directly in its wake, a small bird darted and circled, matching perfectly the twists and turns of the larger bird of prey. It seemed at first glance a puzzling scenario until I realized that the small bird was flying for its life. By keeping directly behind its opponent, it could not be seized. Had it lost courage or weakened in strength, dropping below or turning tail to flee, the story would be over. It was in fact, a dance of life or death.

The survival tactics and the sheer bravery of that little bird were awesome. What can be learned from this scene from nature? Chase the fear. Get right behind the matter that threatens peace and disrupts the ability to function in normal life,and pray. Do not become the victim. Be out of sight, out of range, not conceding. You will live to fly another day.

What is the sparrowhawk in your life? A debilitating lack of confidence? A haunting memory from childhood? A controlling relationship? We each have an individual answer to that question. The sparrowhawk had to be distracted, moved on to another airflow for the little bird to be safe, to fly freely again, to be liberated.

There is an old spiritual song that says,

“His (God’s) eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.”

In Matthew ch.10, Jesus is teaching his disciples about courage in the face of opposition. He is en-couraging them!

“Are you not worth more than many sparrows? So don’t be afraid.”

They were to go out into a world of ministry, not expecting a pathway of peace, but of conflict and debate, but they were to remember always that the eternal God was their refuge and underneath them was his everlasting strength. He would be the wind of the spirit beneath their wings. Small birds would soar like eagles.

Just before the teaching seminar, Matthew records in ch.8, a significant but often overlooked incident. Jesus came to Peter’s house and found that Peter’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand. The fever left her and she rose and served as hostess.

Had she been the sparrowhawk in Peter’s household? Perhaps we may be allowed to speculate. Peter had a fishing business to run. He provided for his family and served the local community. Was his mother-in-law concerned, dismayed, even alarmed that he now seemed to be increasingly involved with an itinerant preacher who might disrupt the smooth running of things and even attract the disapproval of the authorities as some had done beforehand? Was her bodily fever an outward sign of the heat of her fear that Peter was heading into trouble alongside another disturber of the peace? Whatever her former state of mind, the calm presence of Jesus her healer changed her helplessness into sustaining purpose and strength.

It was also a personal gift of ministry from Jesus to Peter himself, reaching into the very heart of his household and demonstrating the divine power that resided within him. Maybe the sparrowhawk became a dove of peace.

My cousin Peter recently reflected on what it means to come into the good of the blessings that God has in store for us. He likened it in pictorial terms, to holding a bowl of delicious food, covered with cling film. We cannot touch and consume until FAITH CUTS THROUGH and allows us to enjoy the nourishment. We need the food of the Word if we are to fly, to soar, to catch the airwaves of the spirit of God beneath the wings. There are plenty of sparrowhawks out there, but “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Iris Niven.

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