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The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a story about a wild duck. The wild duck was flying with his fellow comrades in the springtime northward across Europe. At one point during the flight the flock spotted a barnyard and decided to descend and rest. When they landed they immediately noticed the barnyard was occupied by a large number of tame ducks. The wild duck did not realize at the time that this chance encounter would change the course of his life.
The wild duck really enjoyed himself in the barnyard. Most of all he enjoyed the food — he loved how accessible the corn and other food was and the minimum amount of effort he had to exert to locate it. It was just there and it was there in abundance. Because life in the barnyard was so good, the duck happily stayed for an hour. Then for a day. Then for a week. Then for a month. Finally, because he so greatly relished the food and the safety of the barnyard, he decided that he would stay for the summer, even though his flock had left many weeks before.
One cool autumn day when his flock of wild ducks was making its way southward again, they passed over the barnyard, and the wild duck heard their cries. He was stirred with a strange thrill of joy and delight. With a great flapping of wings he rose in the air to join his old comrades in their flight. But much to his surprise, he found that all of the good food and all of the relaxation had made him so soft and heavy that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. Despite his best effort, he simply could not rejoin his flock. Exhausted and defeated, he dropped back again to the barnyard and said to himself reluctantly, “Oh well, my life is safe here and the food is good.” Every spring and autumn when he heard the wild ducks honking, his eyes would gleam for a moment and he would begin to flap his wings. But finally the year came when the ducks flew overhead and uttered their cry, but this time he did not even notice.
As I think about the implications of this parable, I wonder if many of us have become like the wild duck. The longer we live, the easier it is to drift, to coast, to become complacent with where we are in life and where we are with God. Like the wild duck, the longer we live with this complacency and mediocrity, the harder it is to realize that we have settled—settled for less than what God desires for us. As I read the Bible, I get the sense that both my life and my relationship with God are to be full of delight and adventure. Do I still believe this? Do you still believe this? Or have we become so accustomed to the safety and comfort of the barnyard that we scarcely notice that our delight in God and sense of adventure in life have been strangely absent for months, or perhaps even years?
As we find ourselves still in the early weeks of January, we have the perfect opportunity to reflect on the previous year and to dream about the year to come. I would encourage you to seriously evaluate your life. Are you living in the barnyard? Or are you resisting complacency and reaching your full God-given potential? Would the words delight and adventure appropriately describe your life? The only way for us to know is through serious introspection. Paul says as much in Ephesians 5:15 where he wrote: “Look carefully then how you walk.” Jeremiah wrote a similar exhortation in Lamentations 3:40: “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!”
It is my prayer that 2012 would be the year when God would awaken our souls to see that we have been living in the barnyard for too long. May God grow our wings strong and may we return to our rightful place in the flock and be able to fly home once more.
The Rev. Steven Scherer is pastor of Worthville Baptist Church in Worthville, Ky.