I love how God surprises us with His Word. It’s so full of life and truth and His very breath. Not long ago, I spent an entire day studying Deuteronomy 32, of all things. It’s as if the passage was drawing me in and I could not pull away.
"In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft." (Deuteronomy 32: 10-11)
Wandering in a desert like the Israelites, living what feels like a wasted life, howling because I have forsaken God, He finds me, cares for me, guards me, and carries me.
The phrase, ‘apple of my eye’, refers to something cherished above all other things. It represents the pupil of the eye, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. We can usually tough it out when we have an eyelash on the white of our eye but try to focus on anything else next time you have an eyelash touching your pupil. The sensitivity makes it nearly impossible. The original Hebrew literally translated this phrase as “Little Man of the Eye”, referring to the reflection of yourself seen in other people’s pupils (deseretnews.com).
Is this not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard? God guards us occasional wanderers as the apple of his eye, the most sensitive part of Himself, and His own reflection. He allows Himself to be affected by us, to care for us, and to long for us (Isaiah 30:18, Matthew 23:37). I love this quote that references the stories of Hosea and the prodigal son, “God’s longing and love could leave some embarrassed for Him, saying, ‘I don’t want God to make a fool of Himself over Gomer or a delinquent young man. I don’t want to see Him standing there with red, swollen eyes, or an aching lump in His throat.’ And then He turns those red eyes toward us. He puts the robe around our shoulders. And slips the ring on our fingers. And turns us toward home” (eagleflight.org). The God of the universe loves us, allows Himself to be tender toward us, and welcomes us home to Him. And He made us tender so that we could reflect Him, so that He could be the Protector of our sensitivity, and so that He could provide for us (vs. 13-14). If we were not wired with sensitivity, we wouldn’t need God, and if He had no affection, He wouldn’t be jealous when we wander (vs. 16).
In verse 11, God describes Himself using an eagle metaphor. An eagle lines the bottom of its nest with its own feathers to protect and comfort its young until they are ready to fly. Then the eagle loosens the comfortable feathers and stirs the nest with its wings so the feathers fly away and the nest is no longer pleasant. If that doesn’t work to make the young leave the nest, the eagle will knock them out of the nest and fly next to them, catching them until they learn to fly on their own (eagleflight.org).
God’s metaphors are stunning! Just like an eagle stirs its nest so the young don’t get too comfortable, God stirs up our comfortable lives so that we learn to thrive. And He catches us and carries us if we have some trouble learning right away. I got too comfortable for awhile so God stirred up my nest. And because I have been refusing to learn how to fly, this thorny nest is even more uncomfortable on my sensitive flesh. It’s the security I have always known but now God wants me to fly, to be the person He created me to be. But I’m afraid to fall so I sit in uncomfortable misery. God promises that if I spread my wings and jump, He will catch me when I don’t soar the heights right away.
At first I wasn’t sure I believed the truth in this because I have jumped and I have regretted it. I’ve done what I thought God wanted me to do and seemed to fall pretty hard. But I’m starting to wonder if that’s not really the case. I think maybe when I tried to fly, I got scared. Instead of trusting God to catch me, I flew back to the nest to sit in misery. I fear that if I, as the sensitive apple of God’s eye, were to jump out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be affected by Him and other people, the tender heart that God gave me would shatter. So here I sit aching in my jagged nest, the life slowly bleeding out of me, not letting anyone touch me. If only I would leave behind the things that used to give me comfort, God would be my comfort. He would heal my heart when it breaks and my life would not slowly, achingly bleed away. If I let people touch my heart the way God lets all of us touch His heart, He will spread His wings to catch me when things get too uncomfortable and He won’t let me fall. He will fly with me.
"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants" (vs. 2).
Making this even more precious to my musical heart, this whole chapter is actually a song that God Himself wrote for the Israelites to memorize. He wanted them to remember how affected God is by their choices and that He helps them learn to fully live. Can you believe that? God wrote His people a song! God wants His song to pour into our tender places. As our Protector, He doesn’t want us to try and protect our own hearts from being affected, but He wants His song, His love, His longing, and His reflection in other people to touch our tender hearts. God cherishes, guards, and even sings about, our sensitivity.
"I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand" (vs. 39).
It is possible for our tender hearts to be wounded when God stirs our comfortable nests, but God heals and delivers us. At first glance, this beautiful verse means that no one can take us out of God’s hand. But I see an even richer meaning as well. Nothing and no one else can bring us God’s deliverance. Nothing can truly heal us or make us more secure than our Protector, not even the nest He first built for us. No one else can vindicate or clear us of blame when we waste our strength resisting God’s flight plan (vs. 36). No one else can be our rock, refuge, help, or shelter (vs. 37-38). No one else can bring us life or heal us. Nothing we see as ‘good’ outside of God can be the thing that delivers us. We are the cherished, protected reflection of God. It’s time for us to believe that, to open our hearts, and to leave the nest. We may be surprised at how healing it is to fly.
"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." -Psalm 17:8