This life hid with Christ in God has many aspects, and can be considered under a great many different figures. There is one aspect which has been a great help and inspiration to me, and I think may be also to some other longing and hungry souls. It is what I call the life on wings.
Our Lord has not only told us to consider the “flowers of the field,” but also the “birds of the air”; and I have found that these little winged creatures have some wonderful lessons for us. In one of the Psalms, the Psalmist, after enumerating the darkness and bitterness of his life in this earthly sphere of trial, cries out, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (Psalm 55:6-8).
This cry for “wings” is as old as humanity. Our souls were made to “mount up with wings,” and they can never be satisfied with anything short of flying. Like the captive-born eagle that feels within it the instinct of flight, and chafes and frets at its imprisonment, hardly knowing what it longs for, so do our souls chafe and fret, and cry out for freedom. We can never rest on earth, and we long to “fly away” from all that so holds and hampers and imprisons us here.
Wings or horses?
This restlessness and discontent develop themselves generally in seeking an outward escape from our circumstances or from our miseries. We do not at first recognise the fact that our only way of escape is to “mount up with wings,” and we try to “flee on horses,” as the Israelites did, when oppressed by their trials (see Isaiah 30:16).
Our “horses” are the outward things upon which we depend for relief, some change of circumstances, or some help from man; and we mount on these and run east or west, or north or south, anywhere to get away from our trouble, thinking in our ignorance that a change of our environment is all that is necessary to give deliverance to our souls. But all such efforts to escape are unavailing, as we have each one proved hundreds of times; for the soul is not so made that it can “flee upon horses,” but must make its flight always upon wings.
Moreover, these “horses” generally carry us, as they did the Israelites, out of one trouble only to land us in another. It is as the Prophet says, “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.”
How often have we also run from some “lion” in our pathway only to be met by a “bear,” or have hidden ourselves in a place of supposed safety only to be bitten by a “serpent”! No; it is useless for the soul to hope to escape by running away from its troubles to any earthly refuge, for there is not one that can give it deliverance.
Is there, then, no way of escape for us when in trouble or distress? Must we just plod wearily through it all and look for no relief? I rejoice to answer that there is a glorious way of escape for every one of us if we will but mount up on wings and fly away from it all to God. It is not a way east or west, or north or south, but it is a way upwards. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
All creatures that have wings can escape from every snare that is set for them if only they will fly high enough; and the soul that uses its wings can always find a sure “way to escape” from all that can hurt or trouble it.
Our two wings
What, then, are these wings? Their secret is contained in the words, “They that wait upon the Lord.” The soul that waits upon the Lord is the soul that is entirely surrendered to Him, and that trusts Him perfectly. Therefore we might name our wings the wings of Surrender and of Trust. I mean by this, that if we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls “mounting up with wings as eagles” to the “heavenly places” in Christ Jesus, where earthly annoyances or sorrows have no power to disturb us.
The wings of the soul carry it up into a spiritual plane of life, into the “life hid with Christ in God,” which is a life utterly independent of circumstances, one that no cage can imprison and no shackles bind.
The “things above” are the things the soul on wings cares about, not the “things on the earth,” and it views life and all its experiences from the high altitude of “heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Things look very different according to the standpoint from which we view them. The caterpillar, as it creeps along the ground, must have a widely different “view” of the world around it from that which the same caterpillar will have when its wings are developed, and it soars in the air above the very places where once it crawled. And similarly the crawling soul must necessarily see things in a very different aspect from the soul that has “mounted up with wings.” The mountain top may blaze with sunshine when all the valley below is shrouded in fogs, and the bird whose wings can carry him high enough may mount at will out of the gloom below into the joy of the sunlight above.
I was at one time spending a winter in London, and during three long months we did not once see any genuine sunshine because of the dense clouds of smoke that hung over the city like a pall. But many a time I saw that above the smoke the sun was shining, and once or twice through a rift I had a glimpse of a bird, with sunshine on its wings, sailing above the fog in the clear blue of the sunlit sky. Not all the brushes in London can sweep away the fog; but could we only mount high enough we should reach a region above it all.
And this is what the soul on wings does. It overcomes the world through faith. To overcome means to “come over,” not to be crushed under; and the soul on wings flies over the world and the things of it. These lose their power to hold or bind the spirit that can “come over” them on the wings of Surrender and Trust. That spirit is made in very truth “more than a conqueror.”
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