On average, there are a dozen eggs in a chicken clutch. Eggs take about 21 days to hatch, and decorating tips incorporating incubators in the kitchen are scarcer than hen’s teeth. Friends, I don’t even know myself anymore. And I love it.
Somewhere between Eden, the Promised Land, and my little Kentucky town, we’ve lost the agrarian thinking that was so natural and rhythmic to all who came before us. Between long commutes and virtual offices hours, all the baseball practices, appointments, and recitals, we’ve forgotten how the chicken ever became the nugget in our Happy Meals. We’ve forgotten, or we never really knew.
I was sure we would all learn a bushel through incubating our eggs to a full, healthy gestation. We’d candle a clutch of eggs, keep records of their progress, and listen to the sweet peeps of our own spring chicks. As chicks matured, the boys would surely grow an appreciation for tireless farmers and wholesome foods.
When the stars were out, the boys would clamor down the stairs in pajamas, hair still dripping from the shower. We’d lower the lights in anticipation of the big show. Their wiggly bodies would scale the countertops, and suddenly, they were still and almost reverent at the first glimpses of fertilized eggs. At life.
I couldn’t candle the eggs and peek at these creatures forming within the shell without thinking about the sanctity of life. Hearts beating, veins pulsing. Creation from scratch, new life from nothing. What an amazing gift from the Creator! This month of May, I’m overwhelmed with every sort of emotion for the gift of my two sons. Motherhood, the celebration of the feminine genius, the vocation of nurturing another soul in this world, it’s my greatest honor. It’s also ridiculously hard.
After our first chick hatched, five others quickly followed suit. One remained cracked but not hatching for quite some time, but I’d been warned not to help it. Chickens must be strong enough to emerge on their own. This is how they build up strength to weather the elements of, well, chicken life.
If that’s not the greatest, most gut-wrenching metaphor for childrearing, I’m not sure what is. Oh, how many times I’ve wanted to take the struggle away from my children! I’ve begged God more than once to let me take all their illnesses, ouchies, and future sufferings. But, like little chicks, struggles are inevitable and even necessary on this earth. Without overcoming difficulties and coming out of their shell, our children will never learn to walk or tie their shoes, to get back on the horse, to catch a pop fly, to tend to this land, or to (maybe someday) be devoted husbands and loving fathers.
I often reflect on Mary, Jesus’s loving mother. When Simeon prophesized how her heart would be pierced with a sword, I’m sure she found solace in the sweet cheeks of her perfect child, His little nose, precious hands. I’m sure her heart was pierced with grief and guilt each time little Jesus stumbled or skinned His knee. I’m sure she felt the stabs of the deepest sorrow as He carried a cross and the weight of the world up Calvary. As a mother, I’m also sure she prayed our Father in Heaven would keep her Son from all suffering, pain, and persecution…but Thy will be done.
Chickens, children’s activities, Christ’s Passion—I’m hesitant to relate them all in so few words for fear that someone will negate the gift of God’s love to the level of Rookie Ball. But that’s kind of the point. God is in those Little League moments, the creation of yellow chicks, and He’s the one stitching babies in mother’s wombs. He’s with the woman grieving her infertility or miscarriage. He is with the mom who wants to protect her child from words that sting, bones that break, and the relationships with people, pills, or dark powers that will rip them apart. God is with that mother. He’s with that father. I know He’s with that child.
This month of May, this month that celebrates motherhood, I’m praying for you. I’m especially praying for families. God’s perfect plan included Jesus being born into a family, to experience all its worries and its joys. May we embrace the difficulties of motherhood with the grace and knowledge that its joys, our children, far outweigh every suffering.
Christ, be with us.