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Food for Thought - Musings

Under Attack

Last summer, while I was in Northern California, I saw something I had never witnessed before, something that was quite unnerving and disheartening. Since then, I have witnessed this same occurrence on two other occasions in Oceanside and again in Julian. On these three separate occasions, I have witnessed the relentless brutality of 'murderous' crows as they chased down beautiful and wise-looking owls. On the first occasion, I watched this horrific drama play out in the heavens above me for a number of minutes. The crows took turns swooping into the owl. Once graceful, the owl became labored in its flying, slowed, and lost altitude as the attacking crows, seemingly emboldened by the perceived vulnerability of the owl, stepped up their vitriolic attacks. Mercifully, I was not a witness to the final outcome, but, at the point when I lost visual contact it did not seem hopeful for the owl. Yesterday, I, once again, watched helplessly as two large black crows attacked a small white owl. The crows swooped toward the owl as the owl desperately sought to evade the onslaught of the crows. This time, the crows gave up and the owl continued onward to parts unknown to me. As I reflected on this, a thought occurred to me. I do not know if it was because of the stark contrast of the blackness of the crows and the whiteness of the owl silhouetted against the radiant blue sky, or the fact that I was on a silent retreat having time and space to engage my imagination; but either way, in that moment, I thought, “This is a lot like my life.” And while in the moment I sensed this thought was indeed true, I did not know why it was true or what truth it might be challenging or inviting me to live into.

As I took time to ponder the drama that had played out before me, some things began to emerge. I was sure I was the owl, beautiful and wise in Christ. This sat well with me; for who would want to be a crow, dark and menacing? With that settled, I was now left with the identification of the crows. If I am the owl, then what are the crows in my life that pursue me creating exhaustion and possibly leading to my destruction? As I sought to uncover the identity of these ominous crows, a number of thoughts regarding their possible identity came to my mind:
  • expectations (mine and others) of what I should do, who I need to be, how I should do what I do
  • desire to please people, be liked by people
  • performance, the pressure to do things right, well, with excellence
  • temptations of food (I have realized I eat when I am sad, mad, glad and bored)
  • allure of distractions (TV, movies, food)
  • draw to be successful in terms of numbers, salary, influence
  • desire for security - immediate and future
  • need to know more - I love knowledge and link knowledge with power
  • desire to be right
  • egocentricity – the need to be in control, to get my way
  • shame - the thought that I am bad which births insecurity and fuels much of what I have listed above

This list of my ‘crows’ is not exhaustive, but a good start. As I read through my list, I realized that I do not readily perceive these as crows in my daily life, let alone see them as life-robbing and potentially destructive. Where as the owl was aware of the relentless pursuit of the crows and saw the crows as a definite threat not to be trifled or reasoned with. I think that I am often unaware of the crows in my life, both when they are sitting in the tree above me cawing to get my attention or even when they are relentlessly swooping in on me. And more disconcerting is the fact that I often do not see these crows as enemies but rather as benign friends there to cheer me up (food, TV, movies) or motivate me to greater accomplishments (expectations of others, desire for success, security, need to know more.) And I remain unaware of their true nature and what they are really up to: destroyers of my soul, my life, my intimacy with God and my ability to be the wise owl God has created me to be.

As I sit with all this, I am struck by the fact that I cannot out-fly the crows; I do not have the energy or the wherewithal to do so. What would it look like for me to fly into the tree that is Jesus for comfort and help or, using different imagery, run to the strong tower, which is the name of the Lord, where the righteous run to and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). I think that is the question, along with “How do I increase my awareness of the external and internal murder of crows that stand ready to attack?” These are things to which I need to give some thought, for in their answering I will be able to soar in Christ.

So, I leave you with this: What are the crows in your life—those things that at times relentlessly come after you, wearing you down to the point that you give in to them and suffer the immediate and ongoing consequences of their attacks? And what would it look like for you, when attacked by these crows, to fly into the tree that is Jesus or the strong tower where the righteous run to and are safe (Proverbs 18:10)?

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