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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Divine Sovereignty and the Chicken Doodle

When Roger's red hen awakened this morning, she little realized the celebrity that awaited her later in the day. As the rising sun filtered through the dusty henhouse windows, the morning rumble of squawks and squeaks was beginning, as if hundreds of hens were wondering where the coffee was and which outfit was going to be worn today. A scratch here and a scratch there, a little meal here, a bug there, a few minutes to roost.

An ordinary day in the life of a red hen.

In nearby Roann, the sun was rising on the last day of the town festival. The dry grass was weary from four days of traffic. The kiddie rides lay still, resting from a late night of Tilt-A-Whirling, Scrambling, and miniature railroading. At the covered bridge, a few stalwart Christians were setting up a makeshift platform and microphones for the approaching community-wide worship service on the banks of the mighty Eel River as the rest of the town struggled out of bed. A scratch here and a scratch there, a little breakfast here, a cup of coffee there, a few minutes to wake up.

A quiet morning in the life of Roann, Indiana.

Both chicken and man witnessed the day as it progressed. The sun rose on both. The heat made both thirsty and both had plenty of water to drink. The bounty of rich farmland provided both more sustenance that either needed. In the crowded henhouse, hens preened and strutted, checking each other out, and, as chickens do ab ovo, cared little about anything else but the moment at hand. On the crowded festival streets, teens preened and strutted and neighbors checked each other out, and, as humans do ab utero, cared little about anything else but the moment at hand.

The moment for both man and beast changed when, shortly after 4 p.m., Roger stepped into the henhouse and grabbed the red hen. With the bird's head nestled in the crook of his elbow, Roger drove to town.

Upon their arrival in the center of the town, Roger and his companion made their way to the crowd that had gathered around the large wooden frame that lay at the heart of the festival. The frame gave shape to a cage of chicken wire. The floor of this giant box was a checker board of numbers, 1 to 500. The imminent action in the cage would be this hen's moment of glory.

Most of the by-standers were those who had paid a dollar to the Northfield High School Junior Class for a number corresponding to those on the cage floor. Curious children wriggled with delight, knowing what was to happen. Old farmers made comments about the hen's breed and coloration. Girls in the junior class stood appalled to think of the event about to happen.

At 4:30, the climax of the Roann Covered Bridge Festival reached its zenith. Roger dutifully brought the chicken to her cage. Faithful friend Donna lifted the lid. The crowd was agog as the red hen stepped into the limelight. The lid shut as the anticipation mounted. Whose number would . . .

. . .and it was over as soon as it started.

"Dang," said a man in soiled Carhartt coveralls. "Never seen a chicken doodle quite so fast."

"What'd you feed that thang, Roger?" yelled a woman from the back of the crowd. "Ex-Lax?!" She and those around her cackled with knowing laughter.

Faithful friend Donna barely had time to react. Paper towel in hand, she wiped the "doodle" from the board.

"Most of it's on 386!" Another assistant feverishly combed through the numbers in her stack. "Wally Cripe. Our winner is Wally Cripe!" Wally had apparently taken advantage of the "need not be present to win" clause, and wasn't present. So, in less than two minutes, the crowd disbursed. The hen was left alone in her cage.

The chicken's moment of glory came and went in simply doing what chickens do. In this case it was doodling. One supposes that she had no idea of the value she would have to Wally Cripe, earning him $100 merely by surrendering the remains of the previous morning's breakfast. It's hard to imagine that Roger could have slipped a little extra meal to her for looking for, and then targeting Number 386.

No, Roger's red hen was simply doing as God intended for her to do. Eat. Sleep. Doodle.

This is where the difference between chickens and mankind becomes most clear. Unlike chickens, most of us are discontent with the life God intends for us. We create situations out of our discontent that often lead to further discontent. In anticipation of changing the course of our discontent, we end up like the 499 people who lost a buck or two in the chicken doodle contest, rather than like Wally, who got the prize.

God gives life to every human being, days full of sunshine and provision, rain and shelter. We're made to eat and sleep, to love God and each other. This is our Sovereign's purpose for us.

May we, like Roger's red hen, find our contentment in life simply doing what God intends for us to do.

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