My husband, Jim, opened his most recent sermon with a poem by Kenneth Kaufman entitled Three Tame Ducks. I asked him to send me the text so I could share it with all of you.
This week we celebrate the freedom most days we are free to take for granted. It’s good to be reminded of and honor those for whom “freedom wasn’t and isn’t free.” A lot of people have sacrificed their lives for this country so the rest of us could “rest” each night, safe and fairly certain of what tomorrow will bring.
That is why I wanted to share Three Tame Ducks with all of you. I don’t really know what Jim spoke about, right after he shared it with us. My mind instantly headed down a different road, one I think I am supposed to write about this week.
Three Tame Ducks
There are three tame ducks in our backyard
Dabbling in mud and trying hard
Of the overflowing barnyard store.
To get their share and maybe more
Satisfied with the task they’re at
Of eating and sleeping and getting fat
But whenever the free wild ducks go by
In a long line streaming down the sky,
They cock a quizzical puzzled eye
And flap their wings and try to fly.
I think my soul is a tame old duck
Dabbling around in barnyard muck,
Fat and lazy with useless wings.
But sometimes when the north wind sings
And the wild ones hurtle overhead,
It remembers something lost and dead,
And cocks a wary, bewildered eye
And makes a feeble attempt to fly.
It’s fairly content with the state it’s in,
But it isn’t the duck it might have been.
God made us soar.
I was looking out of the windows at the beautiful view behind our chapel, right after Jim had read this poem to our chapel crowd. I saw a huge hawk flying, actually floating, on the wind. It barely had to flap its huge wings because the strong breeze was keeping it aloft.
That bird knew the only thing necessary was to face the right direction and it would be carried along. I compared that bird to those ducks in the barnyard I had just heard about.
They’d spent the day scratching on the ground for as much as they could find while that hawk barely flapped its wings, satisfied it had enough.
Are we satisfied?
I couldn’t help but wonder if Christians today are satisfied to “stay in their barnyards” even though they know God has called them to fly. Are we using our freedom of choice to choose complacency?
If you are like me, it’s just easier to scratch the ground with the other ducks than try to fly.
My thoughts went to the often quoted verse from the prophet Isaiah that says, “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
We see that verse on cards, plaques, and beautiful pictures to hang on our walls. It is meaningful as a “standalone” but so much more impactful when read as a conclusion to a crucial chapter of Isaiah.
Isaiah wrote to bring comfort to the Jews still held in captive in Babylon. He told them Israel’s sin had been paid for; that a voice was calling in the wilderness to prepare a way for the Lord; that the glory of the Lord would be revealed; that people are like grass that withers and fades, but the word of God endures forever. He told the people to lift up their voices and proclaim the Sovereign Lord’s power, and then he described the Savior that Jesus would one day be and the omnipotent God who has no equal.
Are we using our freedom well?
Isaiah 40 concludes with the words that crossed my mind after I’d heard the poem. I was watching that hawk soar and comparing it to the tame ducks described in the poem. I had been considering this blog post earlier that day and thinking about what I would say for the week of July Fourth.
We celebrate our freedom. But the same freedom that gives me the right to worship and write this blog post is the same freedom that “Gay Pride” parades were afforded. The same freedom that allowed me to sing praise to God on Sunday morning allowed for their speeches. The same freedoms God has afforded us allow each person the freedom to reject the One who created the concept.
The question I had to ask myself is the question I offer each of you: As a Christian, am I sharing my message as freely and as boldly as those who march in rainbow-colored outfits? Am I as passionate about my “cause” as they are theirs?
Isaiah wrote, “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:27–28).
We do grow tired, but he gives strength.
Did you find yourself complaining about the news this past weekend?
But I realize now that they are free to march, free to speak, free to rally, and free to sin. God gave them the freedom to choose, even if it meant they would misuse their freedom.
To complain is to be held captive by their sin instead of using our freedom for a better purpose. But don’t you just feel tired of the fight? Especially now that it seems we have lost the battle?
Isaiah says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (40:29–30).
It’s okay to admit you are tired of trying; it’s just not okay to stop trying.
Because “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (40:31).
If our hope is in God, we need to choose his strength for the journey. It’s the only way we will be strong enough to fly.
Our hope is our freedom.
God never promised we would win. He did, however, promise he would.
To complain is to be like the Israelites in captivity: living with the promise of freedom, unable to enjoy its benefits. It’s like watching the birds that fly overhead but choosing to scratch that barnyard mud.
To use our freedom—to share our gospel message—with a holy passion is to give up the barnyard fight and decide to fly instead. Our job isn’t to win. That is God’s job—and we already know how the fight turns out.
We are free to live with pride as well. We just have to quit scratching in the mud for the victories this world has to offer.
We have better, higher ways to use our energies. Look up and speak up. And don’t grow weary. We are free to live above the barnyard, and he gives us the strength to fly above the mess.
Just remember, he also gives us the freedom to make that choice.
How will you use your freedom today?