By Jeff Miller, District Superintendent
It was a new one for me. Staff sometimes request to go home early for a variety of reasons. Company is coming. The weather is bad. Someone got sick. There is a special family engagement. I have heard many and for the most part they make sense. So here was my trusty assistant standing in front of me asking to head home a little early. Sure. I do trust her. She works incredibly hard and long for me and for our district. No problem. But the ‘why’ question had to be asked out of curiosity.
The reason she needed to get home early? She needed to paint some hen bottoms blue. No, really. Not a misprint. Not a typo. She was heading home to get into her chicken coop before dark to paint some blue stuff on the rear ends of her feathered friends. Not on my bucket list, I can assure you. Actually, not even on my radar of what someone might actually ever do for any reason.
Well, as you might expect, there was a legit reason for this most odd of behaviors. Apparently, on occasion, a hen will take a liking to pecking off the tail feathers of other hens. Who knew? It seems that they can gain some bird-brained fulfillment from such activity. It can even become addictive. Of course, being pecked is painful to the hens and unhealthy for all involved. But certain chickens gain a taste for it. Not only can it become a habit, it can become contagious. Odd as it may seem, other hens see and experience this behavior and try it for themselves. Soon, rumps are raw and tail feathers are flying everywhere. So it behooves everyone involved to promptly nip this in the bud, er… bum.
So, someone (I always wonder who these random ‘someones’ are) came up with a blue paste that tastes terrible. Why? Well somehow it was discovered that while the color red draws the attention of these feather-pecking egg layers, the color blue does not, and it actually deters the pecking. And of course, who would want to have the taste of foul flavored feathers in one’s beak that were just plucked off the increasingly bare bottom of one’s sister chick? Hence, Sherry was going to paint a blue target on the backside of her hens. I think I’d stay at work.
As I travel around to the chicken coops called churches, I sometimes witness a similar thing. God’s folks seem to gain a taste for pecking at each other. It is cruel, it is painful, it is destructive. Pecking order issues are harmful. However, we like to point out the negative. Poke at problems, real or perceived. Belittle others. Wound the ones we are supposed to serve with side by side. It is unhealthy. Addictive. Contagious. Sinful.
I don’t anticipate showing up at churches with a can of blue paint and a brush. The cure is not a color nor a taste. It is a transformation initiated by repentance and surrender to the One who wants to gather us under His wings like a hen gathers her chicks (see Matthew 23:37). Nothing good can come from pecking relentlessly at each other. Grace, love, mercy and patience are called for. Then we shall soar (something else chickens struggle to do well).