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EBS39: Hands And Wings

Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #39

Delivered by Eric Butterworth on August 7, 1975

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We read in Isaiah that “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” This scriptural promise has become a literal fact. Our modern age has become an age of wings, when every day thousands of people mount up with wings as eagles and fly across the no longer uncharted skies.

A few weeks ago I was speeding from the South on one of the great modern jet liners. To see one of these argonauts of the air thunder down a runway and streak up into the sky is a breathtaking sight. To feel secure and comfortable in a plane as it flies over thousands of miles of land and sea is itself a miracle. Looking down the long, sleek wings of this mighty craft, the words of the prophet Ezekiel came to mind: “They had the hands of a man under their wings.”

Under the great wings of these modern eagles of the sky could be seen the hands of man. These are the hands of the pilot and co-pilot, the navigator and engineer who skillfully guide it toward its destination. These are the hands of radio operators and makers of precise guidance systems that send out signals across the skies to keep the plane on its path. And before these were the hands that had carefully, painstakingly molded a vision into practical form: the Wright brothers, Sikorski, Curtis and Douglas; the hands of thousands of builders and researchers. Yes, beneath the wings of the airplane lie the strong, steady hands of many who have joined together.

A man needs wings to soar, whether it be soaring in the realms of dreams and visions and fancy for the purpose of bringing about inventions and discoveries that transform human life, or in other realms, with the idea of fitting generally accepted truths into use for a specific mundane purpose. But always, back of the wings, there must be the hand of a man.

Theories may at times be helpful, as someone has said, “to bridge a gap of unfinished thought.” But as something to live by, they must be demonstrable and demonstrated. In all our work there must be a perfect balance between the abstract and the concrete. Even great men would fail unless visions are put into concrete plans.

A religion, like life itself, needs both wings and hands. We must have visions and dreams or we would never reach beyond the past; we would not grow. But there must be plans, too, and what people call the “pains” and patience to work them out. Like Prometheus of old, we must bring down the fires of heaven to earth that they may warm the lives of men.

There are religions that are all wings. They paint a beautiful picture, but somehow they seem intangible and ephemeral. They build great temples as symbols of man’s upreach, but the emphasis is on the remote past or the distant future. They give no vital tilt to the scales of today. They are something to die by rather than something to live by.

There are religions that are almost all hands and very little wings. Their adherents make deep studies into economics and current social and political conditions, but lack reverence, devotion, and the spirit of prayer. They are shorn of wings.

A religion for today must fulfill the vision of the glory that Ezekiel intimated; it must have both hands and wings. Wings for vision, hands to make the vision come true. It must have truths to look up to, but principles that are practicable and practiced.

Perhaps in no other character do we find perfect embodiment of wings and hands than in Jesus Christ. Here was a man who had a God-hold in the sky and a God-hold in the sod. He tells us of His wings and ours, but He knows how to use His hands as well. He tells us, not only what to do, but how to do it. He shows us how to live as well as how to dream. He is the Wayshower as well as the Way. He tells of the Kingdom of God, but assures us that it is “at hand” and “within us”. He heals a man of his diseases, but in the next breath tells him to sin no more lest a “worse thing befall him.” He teaches great crowds how to think and feel and live, but He finds time to show in specific instances how His teachings can be used. If there was one thing that Jesus taught, it was that to be happy, successful and righteous we must have a balance between the human and the divine—between our wings and our hands. “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.”

Significantly, Jesus did not even exempt Himself from this rule: “The Father worketh until now and I work,” and, “I must work the works of Him that sent me.” Wings and Hands!

Perhaps the age-old struggle between religion and science is answered in this simple Truth. Religion might be called the wings and science the hands. It takes the wings of imagination and vision and feeling, as well as the science of fact and law to interpret the full meaning of the world and the deep meanings of life.

Science alone does not adequately interpret life or the Universe. But, in all fairness, neither does the wings of religion do justice to life without the hands of science. Science has opened up the world to knowledge; it has given an increased meaning to life, and it has compelled the old-time religion to discard some of its superstitions. To what new revelations Of Truth science may lead, who can predict?

But there is a realm that science does not enter, and no one knows this better than the truly great scientist. This is the realm of imagination, vision, and faith. To that realm belong the poet, the musician, the artist and the prophet—these persons stand in awe and wonder before a world of unexplored depths and heights. For the modern scientist and the practical metaphysician, there can be no lasting separateness between their paths, for they inevitably converge and they must walk hand in hand.

This is an age of wings, but it is also an age of hands. We find, not only a deeper understanding of physical nature, but a deeper awareness of spiritual Truth. Spiritual vision is enabling man to lift himself out of the life of toil with the wings of spirit, of imagination, and of dreams. Every effort to add a touch of beauty to articles of ordinary usefulness—a piece of jewelry, a pretty dress, a fine piece of china, a flower border on the edge of a vegetable garden, an artistic detail carved over the doorway of a building, or a lonely flower growing on the window sill of a sordid tenement house. All of this registers the striving of the soul to create a world that is larger and more beautiful than the one of practical utility. But our souls reach farther still, into the invisible world of poetry not yet written and music not yet composed, into a world of faith that has not yet become knowledge, into a world of love and tolerance and brotherhood that has not yet been reciprocated.

Here is a world that belongs to the spirit, but that is slowly evolving into this world of form because we know that beneath these wings of vipion and aspiration must be the hands of a man. Beyond the dreams of poetry must be the will to write. Beyond the ambition for success must be the toil, the labor of the hands, the undaunted persistence and effort. Beyond the faith in God must be the willingness to work with God with every human power at our command.

Practical religion rests on two foundations: faith and works, hands and wings. Rejoice in the wings that spiritual ideas give you. But use them, live them, fulfill them. Couple your dreams with constant effort, and you can make your dream a reality.

© 1975, by Eric Butterworth

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