|A hawk very similar to the one I encountered this morning|
This morning as I began walking out the front door of my home, I was suddenly accosted by two squawking sparrows who flew close to my head just as I pulled the screen door behind me. I had been lost in thought about where I was going and things I had to do. The sparrows surprised me and rendered me nonplussed. A split second later, as the sparrows flew into the bushes next to my steps, a large hawk flew right in front of my face with its talons stretched out in front of its body. It was a large, beautiful bird, brown and white, with a sharp looking beak. I didn't quite understand at that precise moment what was happening. I literally felt the air whipping around my face as the hawk's wings flapped together. The hawk was maybe four to five inches from my face. The sparrows were now deep within the bushes, and my appearance on the the front steps of my home had apparently interrupted the trajectory of the hawk's flight path. He didn't expect me, nor had I expected him. It was not on my morning agenda to have an 'almost-collision' with a hawk. The hawk then suddenly swooped up and landed on a tree branch above the roof of my house. The hawk and I made eye contact, and he was obviously disappointed that his breakfast was now delayed. He waited a moment, then flew away.
I've never had an experience quite like this. Although I have always enjoyed seeing hawks, I've never been this close to one. I usually see them along the highway sitting on a telephone pole, and occasionally at reservoirs and forests. Last autumn my wife and I even got to see American Bald Eagles at the Mississinewa reservoir, one of which skimmed the surface of the water and caught a fish in its' talons. It is amazing to see such beautiful creatures of God.
This morning's event gave me a startle, and made me think about how things can happen, unexpectedly and often so quickly. Almost everyone can think of examples of the curves that life sometimes throws. Here you are, going along in your usual, normal routine, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, something unexpected materializes. I've been blindsided by events and things that I never seen coming. What about those times you take a phone call that you wished you'd never received? What about an accident that seemingly happens in a millisecond that couldn't be avoided. Once some things are set into motion, the conclusion becomes inevitable. The news is full of stories of unforeseen and untimely tragedies.
I am a big proponent of self-efficacy. Very few things in life are guaranteed and even fewer things are going to be given to you, so it's up to you to make things happen. Paths in life are not always easy, but they must be pursued if you want to get somewhere. I believe you've gotta make your way in this world, anticipating the worst and hoping for the best, and praying for guidance as you go.
There's lots of debate these days on why some people are successful while others seem to miss out entirely on "life's lottery." Many argue that success is just plain old luck, having been in the right place at the right time. Things such as: having been born into the right family, having the right upbringing and environment, getting into the right schools, and making the right connections...things that seem more of an element of fate than by anything we can control.
Meanwhile, others argue that if one is taught the essentials of success (things like discipline, strong self-direction skills, personal responsibility and a robust belief in self-efficacy) then the odds of prosperity and success are exponentially higher. I am reminded of a famous line in William Ernest Henley's poem, Invictus:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Although the tone of Henley's poem is more about a rebellious rebuttal to living a life of Godly submission, I think many people identify with being the master of their fate and captain of their soul---essentially living their lives as they see fit. They control the things that happen, as well as when and where.
However, there are many things beyond our control. We can't control every event, and anticipate all the possibilities. Some things are simply unforeseeable, or at a minimum, unpreventable. As Forrest Gump once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get." Or, if I may paraphrase...sometimes life is like being surprised by a hawk.