I had an epiphany thanks to the chickens the other day. Since we got rid of Carmen, I knew we had to keep the girls shut up when I'm not home. So we moved their coop into one end of the barn. It's 10 ft across and 25 ft long, and we put up chicken wire all along the side to close it off from the barn. At the 10 ft wide opening in front, we installed a chain link dog kennel with a gate for me, so their pen extends 10 ft out in front of the barn. We took the fourth side of the kennel and put it across the top of the kennel so a hawk couldn't fly down and get the chickens. So in all, the four chickens have 350 sq ft of space. They have 2 waterers and 3 feeders, and there's some grass in the kennel area. I occasionally dump in a forkful of fresh manure, which they love to scratch in, and I bring them chopped up food scraps from the kitchen. In short, everything a chicken could want!
Well, my chickens think they are Jonathan Livingston Chicken (if you ever read the existential book about the seagull who wanted wider horizons). The other day I was working in the garden near their pen, and 3 of them flew up onto the 6 ft high top of the kennel. Esmerelda and Gypsy wandered around like tightrope walkers on the support poles of the kennel, while Victoria flew up onto the barn roof. Eventually Gypsy and Esmerelda flew back down in the pen like good girls, but Victoria flew down to the ground and wandered off on her own. I knew I couldn't catch her out in the open, so I just let her go.
Suddenly I heard distressed cackling, "Baaawwwk! Baaawwwk!" I looked, and there were the 2 barn cats, Sterling and Rascal, coming after her, one from each side, trapping her against the garden fence. At least she was smart enough to recognize Trouble-with-a-capital-T when she saw it, and she squawked and scuttled away while I yelled at the cats. I opened the garden gate to let her in, then closed it and trapped her in there. Then I cornered her against the fence and caught her. And so she was returned to safety.
It struck me how much I am like Victoria in relation to God. (I am not trying to say that I am God in this chicken scenario!) But imagine that God is the farmer who has provided me with an attractive house, nice roommates, safety, plenty of room to roam, fresh grass, lots of food and water, fresh veggies to tempt my appetite, and affection, too. And I am the chicken saying, "God, this is not good enough. You are mean to make me stay in here and give me so many rules. There is so much more in life that I want to experience, and you are trying to deprive me of it. So I am going to go out there and live it with gusto. I'm going to do it MY way because I know what's best for me. I know what I need. Goodbye." And I fly the coop, and within 5 minutes, I'm in trouble. There are two cats stalking me and there's a hawk sailing around up in the sky. So God the farmer comes to get me out of trouble. Do I run to him for help? No, I run away! "Oh, no! You're chasing me! You're scary, and I know you're going to spank me!" Then God finally catches me, and does He punish me? Shut me in the coop on bread and water? No, he pets me and says, "You silly chicken. You are determined to be Jonathan Livinston Chicken, aren't you? What's wrong with life here at the barn with all the good things I've given you?" And He puts me back in with my friends, and I run over and cluck to them. And do I decide that God the farmer really does know what's best for me? Of course not! I'm a chicken! I'm going to get out of here this very afternoon!
Well, that's my little chicken parable! It's funny how much having animals has given me insight into myself! And if you think that means I'm a dumb cluck--you're not far off!