God’s brooding work

God’s brooding work March 30, 2017

Little Miss Broody

One of our hens has gone broody.  That means that she has the urgent biological need to sit on eggs.  We don’t have a rooster, so as it is her eggs would never hatch.  But that hasn’t kept her from sitting motionless, all day, on a clutch of eggs.  She plucked her breast feathers out to expose a warm patch of skin and has generally become tetchy and bad company.  She’s broody.  Some friends gave us a couple of eggs fertilized courtesy of their one-eyed rooster, and we swapped those eggs for our little hen’s unfertilized ones.  Watch this space on or about April 2.  There may be chicks. [Update here!]

Brooding eggs takes time: twenty-one days.  You can’t speed it up by turning up the heat.  The life inside those eggs has to develop slowly, according to its own logic and schedule.  Fine blood vessels vein along the inside of the shell.  A heart coalesces.  It beats.  Organs bud.  Liquid yolk turns to bone and skin and down.  Eyes slit open.  Tiny claws flex.  And then, when it’s just the right time, the beak, armed with the special egg tooth, punctures the shell to form a “pip”–the chick’s air hole.  And then the chick is out and alive.  There’s no rushing it.  We just have to wait.

Might this be a sign for Lent?  You see, Lent makes us wait.  Lent confronts our need for resolution.  If we’re truly living the meaning of Lent, we’re learning to let God do what God needs to do in us on God’s own time.  

I like to believe that what God’s  doing in us during the times of waiting is something grand, some transformative work that will pop up all new and fresh and crocus-y.  But I have the suspicion that most of the time, what God’s doing in us is something far simpler and sublter: God is laboring at the ongoing, nonlinear, frustratingly slow work of developing the life of Christ within us.   It’s not so much something brand new as something re-newed.  It’s becoming who God intended us to be.

We would probably prefer God to create something brand new within us.  Most of us are carrying around enough gunk and junk that we’d rather just chuck it all and start over.  Tada!  A new me.  We cite Scripture to justify our hope.  Paul said that anyone in Christ is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  In Isaiah, God said that he was doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19).

But we’ve misunderstood these passages.  God isn’t in the business of soul transplants.  The new creation is the transfiguration of our lives so that we are transparent to God, just as Jesus was.  The new creation is a return to God’s original intent in creation.  The idea that we can leave it all behind and become something new strikes me as too psychologically convenient, something that has less to do with the gospel than with the American myth of self-transformation and our culture’s infatuation with fresh starts.

I wonder if, most of the time, what God is doing in us is more like what’s happening in those eggs.  If all goes well, what emerges from the secret transformation of the egg, delicately enveloped in the slow heat of the hen’s brood patch, will not be something never before seen.  It will be chicks.  They will peck their way out into the bright world in all their glorious chickenness.

The life of Christ budding within us restores us to our glorious as-God-intended-it humanness.

This transformation requires worship.  It requires prayer.  It requires the Word to vein down into our innermost being.  But transformation especially requires the slow soul-heat of attentive waiting.  There’s no rushing it.

That’s God’s brooding work.

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