A few days ago a badly injured bald eagle dropped from the sky outside my house while my dogs and I were relaxing in the sun. Immobilized but very much alive, his intense eyes warned us away as he struggled to move. He was enormous, rugged, frightened and shaking.
Never before had I witnessed a creature so determined and strong, yet weak and broken at the same time.
He was a complete contradiction. He was beautiful.
My heart raced and my fingers fumbled as I got the dogs inside and dialed the rescue service. They were on their way, but weren't nearby-it would be awhile. They told me to cover him with a blanket if he tried to fly.
Approaching him slowly, it didn't look good. His massive wings were outstretched but his legs were buckled awkwardly underneath. Flying was impossible.
Of all the animals I've come across that needed help or just needed space to die-rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, cats, rodents, and countless birds-I have never known any to convey such raw strength and pride.
Even shaking and struggling, he had unstoppable strength.
I thought about my own shaking and struggling these last couple weeks. Life had cycled rapidly between miracles and obstacles, teaching me not to get too attached to anything-good or bad.
One day I was on top of the world, healthy, bounding up a mountain, and the next day asthma barely let me walk down the driveway. I was offered a beautiful cottage one week, then the next week the owners had a buyer-then it was was available once again. An unexpected bill, followed by a surprise cheque-you get the idea. My head was spinning, and global events felt the same-huge victory for the rainforest, and then...Donald Trump? Life was moving so fast I could barely keep up.
I couldn't ride the highs and lows anymore-I finally hit my breaking point.
My breaking point comes after I've "held it all together" too long, pretending I can handle anything and everything. Like an electrical storm that builds in intensity, the breaking point is like lightning that releases old, stale, pent up energy. For some people, the breaking point comes through an explosion of anger, an illness that lands them in bed, or even self-destructive behaviour. For me, it's usually a surrendering, letting go, not giving a sh*$!, and allowing myself space to cry. It feels like dying to my old self.
The breaking point has a familiar sweetness-even if I don't always recognize it in the moment. It shows me I'm so much more than the circumstances of my physical life.
Dying to ourselves is an art form each of us acts out in our own way. Don't you dare mistake it for weakness-breakdowns are breakthroughs. They can bring us back to life, stronger than before.
But don't get swallowed up by the bleakness of those mini-deaths. Don't stay too long. Your brokenness doesn't excuse you from the work you're here to do.
I sat with the eagle for an hour. I sang to him, and told him he was incredibly loved and admired. I asked questions, and listened to the silence between us. Dogs barked in the distance and eagles called out overhead. I spoke to him about how this world is in flux, in great and small ways. Of course he knew that already.
He relaxed a little, but never once took his fierce eyes off me.
"Most humans are good," I spoke softly, "even though looking down, it must seem like we've all lost our minds. We've forgotten the natural ways of life, and how to truly connect with one another-we're caught in a competitive, consumerist nightmare," I apologized sheepishly, also for myself. "But we're slowly changing, waking up from our ignorant sleep. It's going to get better-I promise we won't let you down."
Time stood still sitting beside that bald eagle. He reminded me that my brokenness doesn't make me weak. It doesn't prevent me-or this world-from being strong. I realized I was reassuring myself, not him. He was a messenger; he was a witness.
Humanity may be broken, but what if that's exactly what we need right now?
I believe in us, in the strength of the human spirit. Underneath it all, we have an unstoppable strength.
Our brokenness is beautiful.