What's your self-image?
Are you a chicken or an eagle?
Several organizations around the world are committed to helping endangered birds survive and reproduce in the wild. Recently a television program related one organization's efforts with raptors, or birds of prey. It explained that great care was taken to make sure that the hatchlings understood they were eagles and not somehow related to people. They were fed by people, but the eaglets weren't aware of this, because the people stayed out of view and placed puppets that looked like full-grown bald eagles on their hands.
As time went on, the babies were placed in large aviaries along with full-grown eagles so they could learn, by example, to fly, hunt, make nests, and do all the things eagles do. Finally, when the hatchlings were full-grown, they were released into an area where they could thrive.
Sometimes, however, such birds don't receive exactly the kind of care they need from people. In one case, a farmer found an egg in the woods on his farm. When it hatched he raised the baby bird together with some chickens. The bird happened to be a bald eagle, however. But bald eagles don't have white heads during the first few years of life, so the farmer wasn't sure exactly what kind of bird he was raising. When the eagle was grown it didn't fly. It just scratched around the yard like the rest of the chickens.
Another man saw this and explained to the farmer that the eagle should be turned loose. But the farmer said that it would never fly or fend for itself. The man took the eagle a little way from the yard and threw it up in the air to its freedom, but the eagle just flapped chicken-like to the ground and began scratching. The next day the man came back. He asked the farmer if he could take the eagle away and try again. The farmer said that nothing would work, that for all intents and purposes the bird was a chicken. Well, this time the man took the eagle far away to a new area, held the eagle up, and told the bird it was free. The eagle hesitated but then took off and flew higher and higher, circling the area.
Sometimes people can be like that eagle. Just as the eagle was living a less than full life, restricted by what it falsely believed itself to be, people can fall short of achieving their full potential because of what they believe themselves to be.
In order to know our true potential, isn't it important to discover what we really are? And what we are depends, of course, on how we are created. The Bible's book of Genesis describes one very restrictive view of man's formation and identity. It states: "There went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:6, 7).
We are free to be what God has made us to be.
Like the eagle who'd been raised with chickens, mankind has been raised with the notion that we all are mortal, living in a world of limits—limited health, limited good, limited love, limited life. If that's all there were to existence, there wouldn't be any reason not to stay restricted.
Yet the spiritual man, the unrestricted man—the ideal man—is the only man that is real. That man is the spiritual image of God. That man is you and I, and we can certainly recognize ourselves when we awake from that deceptive representation of man born in matter, limited by physicality.
Christ Jesus best demonstrated the freedom of this spiritual, real man. Science and Health describes man's spiritual origin this way: "In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being" (p. 63).
Is it possible to have two opposite kinds of creation and identity at the same moment? No, not any more than that eagle could have been both a chicken, scratching in the dust, and a beautiful raptor, soaring in the thermals to new heights.
"Dear reader," the author of Science and Health asks, "which mind-picture or externalized thought shall be real to you,—the material or the spiritual? Both you cannot have. You are bringing out your own ideal. This ideal is either temporal or eternal. Either Spirit or matter is your model. If you try to have two models, then you practically have none. Like a pendulum in a clock, you will be thrown back and forth, striking the ribs of matter and swinging between the real and the unreal" (p. 360).
We are free to be what God has made us to be.
Our prayer must be based on what is real in order to be healing and productive. To pray to restore what God never created, "the unreal," would be frustrating, to put it mildly. Yet, what God has done—the fact that God has created us perfect and spiritual, reflecting Him for eternity—is worth rejoicing about. In fact, there's no better situation in which we could find ourselves!
Although the dream of materially created man would make us think we're "chickens," we ourselves need to know that we soar higher than that. We are spiritual, free to be what God has made us to be. No one needs to be obstructed by what seems to be a love that is finite. No one needs to be inhibited by the false belief that potential is mortally inherited, and thereby limited. We don't need to be suppressed by the fear that man is material, with a temporal life. The infinite love of God, unlimited potential, eternal life, are ours already by the very fact of our nature as God's spiritually created reflection. Look to God, and discover yourself, your true self.