Driving through rural Arkansas, it is not uncommon to see various animals that attempted the infamous journey of the chicken but were unsuccessful. The road is a pretty hostile place. It is, in fact, the home turf of a formidable, four-wheeled enemy of the animal kingdom. When a forest creature chooses to venture onto the road, it encounters an opponent of considerable power and defenses. Surviving the risks and dangers of the road require more than luck. Survival requires that we find ways to apply unique strengths successfully in the hostile environment.
Consider the squirrel, for example. Ever try to catch one? Their strengths are speed and agility. They are fast and can change direction in an instant! They also don’t know how to avoid tires. If you have ever had a squirrel dart into the street in front of you, they almost always make a panicked, suicidal turn at the last moment right under a tire. They panic, and in that moment, they lose direction and vision. In a dangerous and hostile environment, speed and agility mean nothing without good sense and the ability to make wise decisions. If the squirrel stays focused on the goal, his gifts will serve him well and he will survive the road, but one panicky decision is sure to put him under the tire. The squirrel needs to exercise its strengths while making good choices about mid-course corrections.
Consider the turtle. God gave the turtle an amazing defensive capability…a strong shell and the ability to retrench. It is almost impossible to force or entice a turtle out of his shell. They come out when they want to! Unfortunately, a temporary retrenchment into a shelter is not a good defense when you encounter an overwhelming force while making a long, slow journey in the wrong direction. The turtle is no match for the dangers of the road and needs to understand the practical limits of its defense.
Consider the possum. The possum has a defense strategy named after it. Ever hear of someone “playing possum?” The predators of the possum like fresh meat, so if they think the possum is already dead, they are not interested. The defense strategy of the possum is to present itself as a victim, assuming that will deter the enemy. Unfortunately, the enemies on the road don’t care. In fact, they barely notice the possum at all. A good defensive strategy is only effective if you know your opponent’s strengths and vulnerabilities, which is not the case for the possum on the road. The possum needs to understand what motivates its opponent and act appropriately.
Consider the skunk. You don’t actually have to see the demised skunk to know that he has become a victim of the road. Very few creatures have a more effective armament than the skunk…a built-in can of mace! Skunks can cause even the most formidable opponents to back down and leave in fear upon deployment of their natural weapon. Unfortunately, on the road, the only practical value of the skunk’s weapon is to announce to others that the poor skunk lost the battle. Powerful weapons are worthless when the opponent is not vulnerable. The skunk needs to know when to fight and when to run.
Finally, consider the deer. This creature has size, beauty, and grace, and like the squirrel, the deer possesses speed and agility. Sadly, though, the deer has a fatal flaw. It becomes paralyzed in the face of danger. It freezes in the headlights of the approaching vehicle. Its survival depends on the willingness and ability of the driver to avoid it, and if that does not or cannot happen, the deer loses its challenge. When we journey into dangerous territory, we have to keep our wits when things go wrong. If the deer can act…not freeze…its skills will deliver it from danger.
If we choose to be relevant, then we have made the decision to get out on the road and face its dangers. Success requires several things.
- Use the gifts that God gave you
- Stay focused on your goals
- Make mid-course corrections with care and wisdom
- Know your opponents and your enemies
- Understand the limits of your strategies and defenses
- Align your actions with your environment
- Don’t become paralyzed by threats and surprises
One final observation…. Personally, I’ve never seen a dead eagle on the road. Eagles soar above the confusion and mess of the road. They don't play there. They redefine the game and arrive at their destination by taking a path that is not part of the flat, two-dimensional world below them.
I think I would like to be an eagle.