Recently, I was driving home from my office to pack for a leader's conference my wife and I planned to attend in California. On the commute home my route takes me through some beautiful farm land and rolling hills.
On one long section of road I noticed ahead of me the brake lights of cars beginning to light up so I slowed down. After a few moments I saw what was causing the traffic to slow. A bird had been struck by a passing car and was wounded and flapping its wings in the middle of the road. It was trying to fly again. Helplessness in any wounded creature is a sad image. This bird God had created to fly had apparently broken its back on impact with a passing car and could not flap its wings hard enough to get airborne again. Birds don't do well against cars. Birds don't belong on highways – they belong in the air.
We can all end up in places we don't belong. In the spring time, when kings go war, David stayed home and fell into sin. In all the mess of David's life he was still a man after God's own heart. After Peter's denial he went back to fishing for fish instead of fishing for men and Jesus had to restore him so he could fish for men once again. Peter's record breaking swim from the boat to shore reveals how much he wanted to be with Jesus.
When we really blow it we think everything is over. The immense failures in our lives can be the very places from which our true destiny emerges. A life without the hope of restoration destroys people. A life with hope makes us write Psalms of joy and preach powerful sermons on the Day of Pentecost.
As Jan and I arrived at the leader's conference and completed our registration, we were assigned a day and a time for personal prophecy. Each registered attendee was given an appointment that would take place at some point in the next three days. These are rich times when we sit before loving people who prophesy the heart of God into our lives and ministries. At this particular conference of 800 leaders, the process of getting all these people into fifteen minute time slots is something to behold. Our appointment was for the next morning.
As we waited in line the group scheduled to go before us was getting ready to enter their appointment. Then I heard a voice I was familiar with – it was Ted Haggard and his wife. I turned my head and confirmed that the voice belonged Ted. We were no more than six feet apart.
This is the Ted Haggard who pastored a large and world-impacting church. This is the Ted Haggard who was also the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. The is the Ted Haggard who had been all over the news.
When I looked over at Ted I felt the compassion of God well up in me. One of my first thoughts was what guts and strength and humility was at work for this man and his wife to get in line with the rest of us who also needed a word of hope from God. All of a sudden I loved God more. I loved Ted more. I loved the church more. I loved the ministry who hosted this conference more for having a culture of honor. I loved more because hope was in the house.
As I stood in line waiting, I remembered the bird in the roadway from the day before who was wounded and trying to fly again. That bird never left its nest as a chick with plans to someday fly into the grill of a fast moving car. Birds don't belong on roadways. Pastors don't belong in sinful situations, but sad things happen. The surprise is not that we do sinful things. The surprise is that there could be a place where broken lives can fly again. Part of me is sad that the latter is a surprise.
The wounded bird in the roadway probably died later that day. But that morning in the line waiting for a personal word of hope, I felt that this man would one day fly again.