God and the Mother Hen

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It’s said that the best sermons are the ones lived. I can agree as I have lived my share. One of these, in fact, involved a Mother Hen and me.

As a preschooler, I spent my days roaming the grounds of our family farm. Maybe “grounds” is not the best word, as it makes the land sound well-manicured like an English garden. In actuality, it was cracked and hard, except for the plot around our frame house that Mother watered religiously, praying for it almost as much as she did our family.

Those days included cotton, cows, and community cook-outs, where men fried up mounds of catfish, and women provided heaped bowls of pinto beans, potato salad, and freshly snapped black-eyed peas. As a child, my role was to keep the swing squeaking and my hands off the deviled eggs until serving time.

Mother’s stuffed eggs were a fish-fry favorite because our eggs were fresh, gathered daily from our own chickens. I suppose we raised “free-range” birds before it was in vogue, as Mother allowed them to peck and scratch the terrain to their heart’s content. Each night, to protect them from coyotes, Mother shut the hens in the barn, where they nestled into small boxes of hay nailed to the back wall.

I suppose wisdom would say I shouldn’t have entered the barn at all that morning. But, the cheep of baby chicks had a magnetic effect upon my four-year-old curiosity. As I stood in the barn door, the chirping of living pom-poms irresistibly drew me inside. I squatted down to their level and clasped my palm around the slowest of the yellow puffs. The fearful peeping and squeaking heightened as I scooped up yet another into my lap. The babies, soft and skittish, were a precious, helpless tuft of fur and feather.

I still vividly remember the hen’s entry into the barn. With feathers outstretched, she barreled belligerently around the corner at top speed. She wasn’t wet, but she was definitely mad. As she flew at me pecking, and thwapping her inflated wings, I screamed, dropped the chicks, and tucked my head underneath skinny, cowering arms.

Fortunately for me, I, too, had a mother in the area, and she had a broom. Once safe in my her arms, I turned to see the frightened little pullets gathering underneath the wings of their mother. We had all had a harrowing experience that day.

Our heavenly Father likens His watch-care to that of a mother bird. Sometimes, He is like “a hen protecting her brood” (Matthew 23:37), and sometimes He covers us comfortingly under the refuge of His wings (Psalm 91:4).

Like the chicks, our lives aren’t always underneath the soft down of feathers. In times of crisis, we cry hopelessly afraid the sky is falling or moan, desperately fearful of an inevitable grip on our life. Yet, He reminds us to be “anxious for nothing” because “the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5-6). He is mothering us for our good, both when He gathers us near and when He allows us room to mature (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:10).

So as chicks, what should be our part? We are quite helpless if only we would admit it. Our one action is to trust the watch-care of the Parent. When in crisis, will we believe His eye is on us as His little sparrows (Matthew 6:26)? When in comfort, will we remember to be thankful for His wings? In all things, we can give thanks, for even when we fall from the safety of the nest, He will scoop us onto His wings (Exodus 19:4). Yes, sometimes, our most terrifying experiences prove to be our best-lived sermons.