In my new found adventure of “wannabe” homesteader, I have recently acquired a mixed flock of chickens. We brought them home as one-day-old chicks, fluffly and precious. We have kept them warm on heated bathroom floors, fed them, watched them grow, moved them to the big coop, laughed as they “free-ranged” right up to the back door, and waited anxiously for that first, magical egg to appear. Now, my favorite part of the day is donning my boots, grabbing my basket, and gathering those beautiful eggs, “Laura Ingalls” style. Without a rooster among them, those eggs will never hatch, never produce more babies, which I am most grateful for as I scramble them up. But my hens don’t know that. If we did not reach underneath them and remove the eggs, they would dutifully sit on them forever.
It turns out that my girls have given me much more than breakfast. They have given me a powerful visual to a breathtaking verse I recently came across. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem’s sin and her people’s rebellion when He makes this heartbreaking statement:
“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!” (NIV)
Can’t you just hear His Father’s heart in these words? Can’t you just feel His longing? Sit with it a moment. Don’t look away. Close your eyes and absorb His hurt. As I do this myself, I picture my large hens, so much more fierce and strong than they were when they were those small, helpless chicks. I picture them sitting on those eggs, protective, able, determined.
It is refuge He is offering, isn’t it? Safety. Protection. Sanctuary. The King of the universe, the lover of our soul is offering this to you and me. Sit with that. Feel the weight of that invitation. And now, let me ask you, are you refusing His refuge? Like Jerusalem and the Jewish people in Matthew 23, are you unwilling to be gathered like chicks under His wings? Am I? If I am honest, the answer is too often yes.
You see, though I have come to Jesus for my salvation, I do not always come to Him for my refuge. I struggle hard against what life throws at me. I fight to find my own way. I rebel, thinking I certainly know best in this situation and this one as well. I am controlling. I am hard hearted and stiff necked. And in the end, I am wrong. I am exhausted. I am exposed. I am like a defenseless baby chick left out in the elements, unprotected and broken.
And it is all a needless struggle, a fruitless endeavor, because Jesus is beckoning us to rest under His wings.
Perhaps the biggest answer to your prayer, to my prayer, is our own surrender, our own acceptance of the refuge He has always wanted to give.
What is it that is keeping you out in the cold? Is it a sin that you can’t let go of? Is it anxiety that keeps you awake at night? Is there shame blocking your way? Is there unforgiveness tripping your steps? Whatever it is, I can assure you of what it is not. It is not your Father’s willingness. That is there, as is His deep love for you and longing to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. It is safe there, in our surrender and His refuge. Will we stop refusing it and retreat deeply into the shelter under His wings? May He find us so very willing. I can think of no sweeter place to be.