There isn’t much to like about seagulls. They’re noisy, obnoxious and invasive. But this weekend, as I found myself wrestling with how to navigate the news, resolve my fears and hold on to joy, a flock of seagulls taught me a fantastic lesson.
On Sunday, my wife and I took our four children on an adventure to a neighboring beach community. After a cold weather snap and an above-average flu season, we needed some time out of the house. As we walked on a dock along the intracoastal waterway, I noticed a number of large, wooden owls placed along the railing.
“Dad, are those real owls,” my kids asked curiously.
“No guys, they’re not real. Someone put them there to scare away the seagulls,” I answered.
If your dock becomes the local seagull hangout, it will also become decorated in seagull poop. To avoid the poop, dock owners place large wooden owls along the railing of the dock. Much like the idea of a scarecrow in a corn field, the owls are a deterrent to encourage the seagulls to stay away.
But today, these seagulls weren’t buying it.
We live in a world full of wooden owls—fake fears that keep us shackled. These are the things that feed our excuses and fuel our frustrations. Some are placed there by the media and some are imposed by our family and friends. However, if we’re honest, we’ve set up a lot of wooden owls ourselves..
We live our lives trying to avoid the owls. It’s an exhausting charade. And while our fears may be predicated on real, frightening things, we have to stop living under the jurisdiction of fear.
As a cancer survivor, cancer is a real. The fear of it coming back shouldn’t be.
School shootings and opioid addiction are real tragedies that affect our culture. The fear that my children will be affected shouldn’t be.
As someone who provides for his family, financial struggles and money problems are worth considering. The fear of poverty shouldn’t dominate my thinking.
For far too long, we’ve believed the lie that fear is a great motivator. It isn’t. Fear is a terrible motivator. Yet everyday, we choose to allow it to dominate our thinking. When fear dominates our thinking, it dominates our decisions. When fear dominates our decision, it dominates our life.
We’re like the seagulls who fly around, refusing to land because we’re scared of a wooden statue. At some point, we have to have the courage to stare the wooden owl in the eyes to see that its fake.
One of the most common phrases in all of the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” But let’s be honest, it has become so cliche that we’ve forgotten what it really means and we don’t know how to respond. We try to convince ourselves that if we’re more faithful, then we won’t be afraid. Or, we try to will ourselves past our fears. But this constant effort leaves us exhausted and doubting if it’s even possible.
“Do not be afraid” isn’t a rule to follow, it’s the key to freedom and a life fully lived. Point blank, fear suffocates you and robs you of joy. If you choose to live with it, your life is a fraction of what it was intended to be. True freedom is found in the absence of fear. And as long as you’re living your life under the veil of fear, the freedom you long for will escape you.
It’s funny that God used a flock of seagulls to teach me this lesson, but it’s a picture I’ll never forget. This world is a messy, ugly place sometimes. But you don’t have to walk around believing that your world has to be messy and ugly as well.
You have the freedom to make decisions. And the first decisions is to refuse fear. From there, the decisions that follow will be rooted in wisdom and in truth. However, if you fail to make that first decision, wisdom and truth will evade even your best effort.
So today, choose to be the seagull who courageously stares the owl in the eyes. Then, sit on the rail and enjoy the salt and sun. You’ll be surprised. Pretty soon your friends will follow.