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Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. ~ Matthew 4:1

As land animals, when we try to increase our speed, one of the factors we need to overcome is resistance, specifically wind resistance. Air is not hard to move through, but as your speed increases, even still air becomes a wind of the speed you are going. We have gravity and friction to keep us still, but remaining still in the air requires a more complicated manipulation of forces. In flight, air resistance is known as drag. Lowering drag increases speed, but there are birds that have developed clever methods for using drag to hover without stalling.

Hovering can be hard work. Hummingbirds expend huge amounts of energy just to stay in one place, turning their wings over with each beat so they can push air in each direction, much like treading water. Kestrels need to add lift to avoid stalling as they lean into the air. Thus, they do a lot of flapping as well. Ospreys do much the same thing, only with fewer flaps since their wings are larger. Red-tailed Hawks will often exploit the rising air off of a ridge that they can effectively surf, letting the air move while they fall into it. Their slightly longer-winged cousins, the Rough-legged Hawks, are able to do that without the assistance of the updraft through a bit of a balancing act with a flap here and there. But the real experts of this skill in the avian world are species that got their name from the practice, the Kites. Their long glider-like wings allow them to use drag to their advantage. By leaning into the air to the point of resistance they achieve a balance permitting them to remain still, floating like a kite, minus the string.

We might learn a thing or tow about handling resistance from the birds. We tend to see it as a weapon keeping us from moving ahead or rising up. The work of resisting evil can feel like a burden we are unable to carry. But as we enter Lent and consider how Jesus resisted temptation to do what was wrong for him, we might consider how he showed us that resistance can be a tool. It can teach us that we have all the strength and power we need and should we lean into it, we just might find the balance we need to carry the burdens we must. When we find the still point, there is just enough lift to counter the drag.

Prayer: O God, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us (perhaps by teaching us resistance) from evil. Amen


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