Last spring we had tried repeatedly to coax our new hennies to venture outdoors. They’d spent their short lives huddled under a warming lamp and were afraid of anything but their gloomy four walls. Staying cooped up weakens their health. They were late in maturing, they ought to have be laying by then. We were hungry for noodles.
I had their permission to lure them as far as the door, those days. In fact, they ate from my hand at the door, but refused to exit. They eyed the outdoors with that silly, sidewise, one-eyed glare you get from a chicken. Nope. Not going out there.
The outdoors abounded with tempting, green treats, some of which I picked for them, to expand their experience and make them curious. Nope.
Once we offered our leftover popcorn, hoping this sacrifice would impress them. A few blown kernels in line along the threshold indeed proved tempting. The small pile of them on the ground outdoors, though, went to the goldfinches, far smarter birds.
The hens in our last batch had been glad to fly out the door when I’d opened it. I had enjoyed the humor of their clucking and lining up in pecking order to be the first ones out. The old rooster, which I named “Woozie”, always stood sentinel and nipped at the slow ones, commandeering them out the door.
Now we have a new rooster, unaccustomed to adventures. This new Woozie stands furthest back, threatening the door person, crowing and posturing, loud and comical. Oh, the trouble this new Woozie spends, protecting this harem from the dangers of goldfinches!
That spring day, I’d planned a feast for them—trimmings from the previous night’s nachos and fruit salad. They are chickens. They should love, even fight over, tomato and apple cores, wilted grapes, and taco chip crumbles, in spite of never having tasted these treats before. I should have been able to open their exit, toss the scraps on the ground, and watch them swoop into it. Nope. They were totally timid. And I was totally frustrated.
And we can be so like them.
How we sometimes prefer the confines of a gloomy Christian box! Rather than jumping at the chance to breathe the giddy air of adventures for Jesus, we give most Godly endeavors that stubborn, cockeyed look. The royal treats just on the other side of the threshold should propel us, should be our delight, but we sternly refuse to budge. Often, what ought to be the fearless leader, instead, stands behind us and squawks about the dangers of leaping over the edge.
And the hand we say we trust—the hand of the One who feeds us all—shuts the door every evening on the same timid group, the same frustrating flock of loons. And the treats go to smarter birds.