Once upon a time, our free-ranging chickens were the queens of the pasture. They've also laid claim to the pine grove and the flower beds, as well as the covered patio. No matter how many times I tell them no, they still keep showing up for happy hour every day at five o’clock. Incorrigible chickens! “No” is apparently beyond the purview of their itty bitty bird-brains.
Therefore, they were not pleased when the lambs decided the pine grove was their happy place too. It’s one of the few shady spots in the pasture and while the chickens have their covered playpen, they squatted in the grass ten feet away and stared at at these woolly creatures loafing under the pine boughs. I think they were getting ready to rumble but soon realized they were no physical match for the strange-looking-and-sounding mammoths in their midst. Nevertheless, one day our smallest hen, Dolly Parton, who sports a glamorous, blond crest, adjusted her poofy wig and gathered her gumption. Then she strutted into the pine grove and made herself at home, pecking at everything and nothing. The lambs stirred and rose to their feet. Dolly simply took note and settled in.
Once the lambs decided Dolly was no real threat and in fact, incredibly interesting, they inched toward her. Faustina decided to give her a welcoming sniff. Dolly ruffled her silvery feathers and made Faustina jump. Then, she cozied up to her sister lambs and shrugged off the encounter as a byproduct of life on the farm. One by one, the other chickens tentatively made their way into the pine grove. Fast forward a week later, and the lambs and the hens
are no longer strangers. In fact, they’re fast friends, lallygagging together without a care in the world. It was a sweet and subtle shift that started with one.
One chicken. One lamb.
Who’s your one? That one person you know who’s on the outside looking in? Or maybe that describes you. I’ve been on the inside and on the outside. Both places have their own challenges!
When I moved to Tennessee after a lifelong stint as a “Jersey Girl” — I found it difficult to assimilate and make new friends. I soon learned the classic NJ greeting: “How you doin’?” [add accent here] was a head-turning misdemeanor. I was only trying to be nice and this was a strange new world! I missed my familiar stomping grounds. I felt misunderstood and homesick for my peeps. I missed my trusted “pine grove.”
But there was a new pine grove here in Tennessee. The people it sheltered were, like my lambs, sweet and welcoming, curious and happy—even to share space with a stranger. I, on the other hand, was as ruffled and tentative as my chickens were about being on the outside. That said, chickens may have bird-brains, but some of them, like Miss Dolly, have lion-hearts when needed. Maybe I needed to be more like Dolly. Maybe I needed to embrace the exhortation to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” more and sooner than I did (Proverbs 3:5). Maybe I needed to be more courageous and vulnerable and welcoming myself.
We all find ourselves cast out of bounds, in “strange” places and situations sometimes. Maybe it’s a physical place, but maybe it’s an opportunity or a relationship we’ve intentionally shied away from because we lacked the trust and understanding to venture forward or to make ourselves at home. Maybe we need to be lion-hearted and simply trust in the Lord. Other times, we’re the one who needs to be as gentle as a lamb and “remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Barnyard bliss is really just the animal version of the unity we’re all called to—not just as a human family, but as one family in Christ's love. Goodness knows, if these bird-brained chickens can figure it out—why can’t we?
Maybe I’ll ask them when they show up for happy hour.