As we first approched the raptor above in our car, and from a long distance away, the bird on the branch looked like it might be a Bald Eagle. I’m always excited to get a good picture of a Bald Eagle in the wild, so we approached as close as we dared, shut off the car and got out the camera and binoculars. He was sitting quitely on his branch, looking out across the sea of snow – I suppose he was looking for his next meal. As we zoomed in with the long lens and binoculars, it became obvious that he was not an Eagle. As we watched and took a few pictures – he flexed his wings and took off giving us a chance to see his beautiful wing patterns.
After we got home, we did a little study, and I now believe he is a Rough-Legged Hawk. A big beautiful bird.
There are lots of things in life that are like this “not eagle”. What we first observe is not usually reality. Too often, we make a judgement based on little information – like the Hawk – we are sometimes just “too far away” to make a fair and honest assessment.
How many times have you met someone, made a first impression and then found out over time that that first impression was not accurate. We also do this to ourselves when we look at others and compare them with what we think we should be. Our view is likely to be skewed by our own self view which may or may not be accurate. If we are overly critical of ourselves, we may think we will never measure up to what the world expects. Or contrarily, we may have the distorted view that we are the perfect model for others and then we get puffed up and conceited.
In reality, neither of these assessments are likely accurate, and the only comparison we can truely make is to compare ourselves to that perfect example, even Jesus Christ, and use that as a guide to help us improve our life. Of course, as we look to his example, we still need to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves, or we will not make the progress we desire. But knowing that Christ’s Atonement makes up for all of our shortcomings (as we repent and work to improve) gives us the freedom to be honest with ourselves so that we can make the progress toward perfection that we need. Our perfection will not be instantaneous – this is a lifelong effort to improve day by day.
That the bird we saw was not a Bald Eagle does not dimimish its beauty. He is a beautiful specimen of his species. Just because my initial evaluation was wrong does not change that beauty. Likewise, we each are beautiful and working to become perfect. That we are not all at the same place at the same time is one of the marvels of this wonderful world God created for us.