“Plucking” isn't quite an everyday familiar word unless we use it in the sense of plucking the strings of an instrument. However, I'm using it here in a different definition as I explore the example of a weary, exhausted eagle seeking to renew (rejuvenate) itself. Its God-given instinct leads it to pluck out all of its feathers.
What does “plucking” mean? It's not a gentle, painless procedure. By definition it is yanking, tearing, ripping with sudden force or a jerk; tugging sharply by pulling out from the place of growth; to uprooting and removing. In the case of the eagle, not fun and games. It is for some perceived purpose, not a random action. What is the eagle's purpose? It plucks out all of its feathers in anticipation of growing a complete set of new ones.
It is a process. The eagle doesn't jerk its feathers out all at once but one by one until it is rid of everything of the old including any annoying fleas or lice that were hiding among its feathers. It must be a clean sweep until it stands bare of all that could have hindered its renewal. The eagle is on the way to becoming almost like a new creature with all the attributes of youth again in its vigor and strength. The process is costly and painful but essential and worth it for the celebrated result.
If I am to imitate the eagle (Psalm 103:5) in my renewal, I should begin with one “feather” at a time. My feathers are the aspects of my life that need renewal, that may be hindering my flight to greater heights, and keeping my life down in certain valleys or unworthy canyons, “the things which so easily beset me” as the Scripture puts it. Things that only God and I know that hinder or slow down my life race. My feathers too may give shelter to all kinds of shortcomings and sins that I hide from the sight of others among my feathers.
This plucking process is something that I must do; God will not do it for me. This has nothing to do with my salvation and my eternal life which is effected by God's grace. It has to do with my mortal life while in my “earth suit,” my human body in which my eternal spirit dwells, and my Christian lifestyle and witness. God doesn't pluck my feathers out for me. Some things we are responsible to do ourselves. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,” “[you] draw near unto God and He will draw near to you,” “keep yourselves in the love of God,” “building yourselves up on your most holy faith,” etc. God has His own area of “plucking” which I will explore later, as in “rescuing us, snatching us from, pulling us out” of the nets, traps, pits, and snares into which we fall. But this feather plucking, the ridding ourselves of unwanted, unworthy attachments is up to us—up to me.
I have my own set of feathers to identify, and you have yours.
A large eagle has about 7,000 feathers, 1,200 on each wing. That should ordinarily take it a long time, but it accomplishes this feat in approximately 40 days. I hope I don't have that many feathers to deal with and pluck out, but it will still likely take me a while to deal with the things I need to rid myself of in order to carry through my renewal. In John chapter 15 Jesus calls this process “pruning,” ridding ourselves even of good, healthy shoots of our vine in order that we might “bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.”
So I must allow the Lord to help me examine myself for what things in my life or my habits or my lifestyle or my circumstances hinder me from the holiness to which God draws me. The negative things and also possibly some positive things which I may need to curtail or lay aside to fulfill God's greater purpose for my life as He has planned it.
I have discovered a whole handful of “first feathers” which I should start plucking out. But I have to begin with one. I've decided what that one should be. It will take me a good while to work on that until I completely dislodge it. It might take me more than 40 days to grow a new habit or virtue or attribute in its place. But I'm going to work on it with God's enabling and His promise of spiritual eagle-rejuvenation. Would you consider joining me in this plucking process with your own “feathers?”
There are a few other definitions for the word “pluck.” We could say that it will take “pluck” (courage, boldness, bravery, spunk) for you and me to engage in this eagle-like rejuvenation—but it will be worth it all. Stay tuned to my blog and we'll explore together how we can imitate what else the eagle is doing while it is “feather plucking.”