With the Poise of an Eagle

SPU Will Need Focus and Decisiveness to Make a Difference

By Philip Eaton, President

"We can claim, with quiet confidence, with poise, that we carry the light of the world," says President Philip Eaton.

I like birds. When our boys were young we used to carry a Peterson's Field Guide wherever we went. We were always trying to spot new birds. When our son Todd was very young, he said, "I'd like to be a sparrow," thinking, I guess, that he liked that darting swiftness, the quick dive and the risky veer just before nosing toward the ground. That looked like fun, those bright green wings and the incomparable veer.

One crisp January morning we went to watch bald eagles fish at the upper end of Lake Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho. The eagles would gather there at the shallow end of the lake where Kokanee salmon lounged through the winter months.

As we stood on the road next to the lake, suddenly we were aware that one of those magnificent birds had left her perch in the trees and was angling toward the lake. We could hear the wings. With ten or more feet of wings, steady, almost without moving it seemed, she smacked the lake for an instant and ascended effortlessly with a sparkling salmon dangling in her claws. What a breathtaking moment. If my son was going to be a swallow, I thought it might be a good idea to be an eagle.

Is "poise" the kind of word you can use for an eagle? Strong, steady, with those intensely quick eyes, and the lethal claws -- this seemed like a kind of poise, a deeper strength, from which to act. An eagle gets the job done, beautifully, no nonsense, no wasted motion, laser focus. An eagle knows where to go, zeros in, hits the target, gets results. An eagle makes an impact, and knows it. This is one premier bird, a bird that acts from poise, it seems.

I've been thinking a lot about the story of David and Goliath. Here is a kind of supreme poise as well and the same ability to act decisively. This rich story frames something very important about how to get things done, how to be faithful to God's hope for his world and yet stunningly active. Working with the gifts God gives us, cultivating our giftedness, being prepared, with confidence, steadiness, courage Ņand then out of such poise doing something well and important, acting, moving, running toward the challenge -- that's what the David story tells us. How to act out of a position of poise.

At Seattle Pacific University right now, we have a vision. We have a plan. We have been sharing in so many places our excitement about the Comprehensive Plan for the 21st Century. We know where we are going. We are poised.

We want to engage the culture and change the world. What a bold venture. We want to make a real impact in the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to make a difference, we will invest in graduates of competence and character. We will lift up wisdom and shine the light of the gospel on the issues of the day. We will model genuine community. And so now, claiming the transforming power of Jesus Christ, we will indeed run toward the challenge. Poised and confident, now it is time to run.

We are reminded in John that Jesus is the "light of the world." And John wants us to know that "the light shines in the darkness." And then comes this ultimate confidence: remember that "the darkness will not overcome the light." What poise, what deeper confidence, we can claim from this text. We are instruments of the light, or as Paul says in Ephesians, "once you were darkness, now you are light." We are the light, the light of Jesus.

Herein lies our deepest poise. This is our starting point. We have done our homework; we have done our planning; we know where we are going. And then, we can claim, with quiet confidence, with poise, that we carry the light of the world. Big darkness threatens to encroach, but we have that deeper confidence that allows us to act, to move, to make a real difference, to run toward the challenge. Breathtaking, really -- like the eagle.

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