I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately; having a kid who plays competitive travel hockey will get you out and on the road nearly every weekend. As I’ve been driving all over the Greater New England area these past few weeks I have had plenty of windshield time. In particular I’ve noticed more than once is the annual bird migrations traveling south towards warmer climates and away from the inevitable Maine winter.
This weekend as we ourselves were headed south I happened to notice a flock of ducks flying ahead of us. As I watched them travel in their familiar V formation I noticed something very interesting happen. One of the ducks from the middle of the formation suddenly started to fall out of formation and fly slower than the rest very soon they were at the end of the formation and were falling behind the rest. As I continued to watch I wondered if they would simply be left to drop further and further behind the group and hopefully catch up to them later on down the migration road. Instead something very interesting and amazing happened, two of the other ducks dropped out of formation and fell back in behind the first straggler that had broken off. Together they formed a new formation with the original straggler in the lead of the new V and the others behind on each side. Together the three continued to fly behind the original larger group. Eventually they flew out of sight but I would like to assume that they at some point caught up and rejoined the group again. Those two ducks are the ultimate wingmen. They were willing to give up the comfort of the larger group to ensure that one of their own was not left behind or left alone.
My observation of the ducks got me thinking. I had heard sometime long ago in some team building workshop or another that the reason you hear the birds like that honking or quacking when they fly in a formation is to constantly let the lead bird know that the others are still flying behind and they are still together. Add to that idea what I saw of two members of the group falling back to fly with their slower comrade and you have a simple but powerful reminder of how we should be acting towards one another as Christians.
How many of us in our churches or study groups have fellow Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, who are just like that duck, they begin to fall back and get tired or lose hope. Do we come alongside them in their time of need and give them support, friendship and encouragement or do we just keep flying along and assume they will catch up as some point? We all know the right answer yet I’m afraid that far too often we don’t drop back and let that support and help.
“Therefore encourage one another, and let each one help to strengthen his friend……” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (Weymouth New Testament)
Paul’s reminder to the early church is just as vital today as it was back then. Add the historical context that many scholars believe that Thessalonians was the first of Paul’s letters (and therefore the first book of the New Testament written) and the commandment is clear. We have a duty to support, encourage and strengthen each other in both our faith and our lives.
Who do you know that needs a couple of friends to come along side them and give them some encouraging company and a few honks or quacks to help them carry on? You never know when it might be you that needs a wingman or two.