God’s Timing: Parable of the Prodigal Hen

 

I live with my husband David on a farmstead at the edge of town. For many years – even before the pandemic made backyard chickens popular – we have tended a small flock of hens. They happily eat our kitchen scraps and keep us supplied with enough eggs for us and some to sell to pay for chicken feed. Due to predators such as foxes, hawks, dogs, and possums, we don’t let the hens run in the yard. Instead we have a “chicken run” – an enclosed fence that allows them to go outdoors securely.

Recently, however, a hen escaped from the chicken run. She took off past the barn, charged through the corral, and headed towards a barbed-wire fence and wooded area beyond it.  I circled around to the other side of the fence, trying to redirect the hen back towards the corral and into the waiting arms of my husband.  But we soon discovered that the thicket of trees, tangled branches, fallen logs and shrubs and barbed wire fence prevented us from moving as quickly as the hen.  She zig-zagged back and forth through the fence as we battled scratchy branches and stumbled over logs in our chase.  Later that evening, after dark, we tried again to retrieve the lost hen, hoping that we could catch her roosting in the trees.  But, again, she evaded capture, darting off repeatedly into the dense underbrush and out of view.  Finally, we halted the search, certain that some other creature would eat her for supper that night.

Early the next morning while it was still dark, I peered again into the hedge, seeking to glimpse the hen – or at least to see some feathers on the ground to confirm her fate.   But, alas – no sight of the hen.  I gave up all hope, and decided that further searching was futile – and not worth more scratches or pokes in the eye. We would just count it as a loss. We still had ten hens left, after all.

The next day around noon, David went out to gather eggs. Much to his surprise, there outside the chicken run was our wayward hen!  Of her own will, she had returned to her companions and her food source.  David moved swiftly to corner her and – this time – he caught her….just after she deposited a fresh egg on the spot!

We don’t understand how our hen survived the night, or how she managed to lay that egg unbroken after so much commotion!  But she reminded me that life is sometimes like this:  It confounds our attempts to accomplish our goals, prevents us from getting where we want to go, makes it difficult to find what we are seeking, eludes our grasp – and leaves us with scratches and bruises to prove it.  Our hen also taught us that sometimes it is best just to cease our frantic efforts, and wait.  Good things also come with time, through patience and the grace of God, without or in spite of our most strenuous efforts.

It sounds like a story Jesus might tell: “The Reign of God is like when a hen escapes…”  Or “The Spirit of God is like a chicken on the move, you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going…!”

May we be watching for God’s gifts and ready to join God’s work as the time is right.

By Heidi Regier Kreider, March 2, 2021

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