Of Easter and Chicks
By Debbonnaire Kovacs, posted 3-30-16
I am conservative enough to eye askance the ubiquitous pairing of the Resurrection of Christ with things like chicks, bunnies, and eggs. But only mildly; I’m not that curmudgeonly! After all, I’m also progressive enough to see the obvious connections. Resurrection is about new life, and this time of year abounds with it—notably revealed in chicks, bunnies, and eggs. (And lambs, kids, etc.—see my own farm babies cavorting here. You might have to scroll down a post or two.)
When I was casting about in my mind for something relatively new to share on this topic, I remembered a miracle story from my own experience that contains many of those elements. So here it is—your chickie story for Easter.
It happened a good quarter-century ago. I was a young, single mother going through a particularly dreadful and painful time. My three little children and I, left with little to live on, had been given money for a bus trip across country so we could take shelter with my mother, who lived on a small, primitive, wooded homestead in northern Washington State, not far from the Canadian border.
Winters in Washington, on the “left bank” of the Cascades, is (as many readers know) mostly all about rain, mud, and the kind of chill that penetrates to the marrow and makes you think you’ll never be really warm again—even though the actual temperature is a great deal warmer than in many other states at that time, not to mention provinces! In our case, the discomfort was compounded by the fact that our only heat source besides our own bodies (swathed in layers of clothing, generally slightly damp) was the small firebox of an ancient stove that had been designed to be part wood and part gas. There was, naturally, no gas.
I did mention “primitive,” didn’t I?
The winter of my own soul was far more cold and miserable than my body, anyway, and it didn’t revolve completely around my heartbreaking circumstances, but about my persistent questions concerning God’s care. It wasn’t that I didn’t think bad things ought to happen to us, or that the bad things which were happening to us were any worse than come to many others. It was that I believed I had been encouraged by God, through Bible study, through inner leading, through the counsel of godly friends, and through providence (up to a point) to trust that this particular Bad Thing from which I was suffering would not, in fact, happen.
So now, where was I? Just mistaken? Fine, and not at all unusual among humans, let alone in me! Or had the promise been real, and was I still supposed to be trustfully waiting its fulfillment? Or was I (as I most feared) completely wrong in the ways I tried to determine God’s will for me.
More fundamentally, I was at one of those points we all reach now and then, faith or no faith. Deep inside, my soul was wailing, Are you there, God? Do you hear me? Do you care?
I tried not to allow these questions. At that age, I believed them to be wrong—faithless, almost. Of course God is there! Of course God hears! Of course God cares! How can you even ask??
So there I was, one damp, dark (winter is inevitably dark in northwestern Washington even if you are not in a small clearing in the woods) evening, feeling, to be honest, quite overrun with sorrow and anxiety and loss and fear. It was in that state that I went out to feed my mother’s chickens.
In her flock, as winter had trudged invisibly along toward a spring that seemed just as cold and muddy, dwelt the most determined broody hen I ever met. She had wanted so desperately to be a mother that she had continuously stolen all eggs, rolling them into her own nest, which grew to such proportions that of course she could not keep them all warm. We had kept taking them away and trying to keep her on one reasonably-sized nest, to no avail, and had finally given up and let her do as she pleased, assuming eventually she would give up her brooding and go back to normal chicken life.
[I really hate to admit it, but I am finding new lessons in this old story, even this minute as I write it again…]
To everyone’s surprise and happiness, this hen had finally hatched one lone chick, which was the pride and joy of her life. You’ve heard of the proverbial “hen with one chick,” haven’t you? Well, I’ve known her personally, and everything you’ve ever heard about her is true.
This chick was now a few days old, dashing about under the feet of all the rest of the flock, and as I fed, I smiled to watch it, despite my unhappiness.
Then disaster struck.
As a slight defense against the impossibly muddy pen, Mother had created a “corduroy path” of short logs laid side-by-side. I was standing on this, throwing feed, all the chickens mobbing and shrieking as is the nature of chickens at feeding time, when the huge rooster stepped right on that one little baby.
Yelling, I bent down and grabbed it up. They’re pretty flexible, those little guys, and I hoped it would be all right. But the chick had been mashed between two of the corduroy logs, and was broken.
It started to rain. Again.
I stood there on that muddy corduroy path, holding that broken little yellow chick in my closed hands, chickens surging and pecking around me, with the mother hen ignoring the food and staring up at me, pacing and clucking anxiously. I looked up toward heaven, rain and tears streaming down my face, and I screamed at God. I told him exactly what I thought of his handling of affairs in general, my life in particular, and this little chick—my pain and anger choked me.
“This one little baby! She worked so hard! Now what? How could you let this happen?” I shrieked.
It seemed like a long time—or a moment—that I belabored the courts of heavens.
Then I felt something. A movement. A tickle. Holding my breath, I cracked open my hands. The baby was moving.
I will never forget that moment. I don’t think I breathed at all. Slowly, disbelieving, I cracked my hands wider and peered within. There was the little chick, round and whole and alive. It cheeped at me. I stared, feeling a little faint.
And a little guilty. (Such was my spiritual development in those days.)
Mama Hen let me know in no uncertain terms that she would have her child back. Now.
In a daze, and I think in slow motion, I lowered the chick to the ground, where it ran under Mama, who clucked gently and showed it where the best bits of muddy grain were.
I looked up again. I don’t remember if I said anything in words. I knew as clearly as if Jesus had stood beside me in the flesh what God had just said.
Yes. I am here.
Yes. I hear you.
Yes. I care.
No, I’m not going to do the miracle you wish I would. But here’s a little token of my affection; a little reminder that I really do know what I’m doing, and really will be there with you. All the way.
And so it has been. I have been young and now I am old, and I have seen the righteous begging bread. But not forsaken. Never have I seen them abandoned (even when they felt abandoned) by the One who walked the dark road of utter abandonment before them and for them and with them.
Christ is risen indeed. And so shall we be.