The portable incubator
Thanks to the local 4-H office I have an egg incubator in my study. I thought it would be a fun project -- for the kids, of course. As it turns out, it’s not a project at all. You set up the incubator, put eggs in the holders, set the thermostat to the correct temperature, and wait. That’s it. What was I thinking?
It takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, but that’s irrelevant to the five resident egg inspectors that bear my last name. They intrude my study more now than ever -- especially the three youngest ones. "Hi, Dad! Just checking for peeps." I have a hunch this phrase will be repeated often enough to wear holes in my eardrums.
"Hey Dad, will you call me if anything happens?" they inquire. "Sure will," I reply with a slight nod. The fact that I’ve answered that same question, or a variation of it, twice already this morning means nothing to them. They need my reassurance and I’ll continue to give it. This is one of my higher callings in life.
Seeing is believing
Fertilized bird eggs aren’t fair to their onlookers. Day after day, eggs look the same. Nothing changes. When the barn cat became pregnant, we watched her go from a size "00" to an 8-XXL in a matter of days. We knew when she was about to pop. It was obvious through the changes in her body. After the Collie was bred, we were mesmerized by the dozen or so spigots which protruded from her sagging abdomen. They appeared overnight. Nevertheless, there is nothing exciting about egg-watching. Eggs are boring. It’s always the same scene, just a different day.
There are several reasons why this could get frustrating. First of all, I don’t know which ones will hatch and which ones will rot. I can’t tell a fertilized egg from an unfertilized one at this point. Second of all, other than plugging in a couple of electrical cords, my work requires no effort, no specialized skill, no talent. I can’t make anything happen. My job is simply to wait. Zzzzzzzz… Zzzzzzzz… Zzzzzzzz…
It’s hard to be optimistic and excited when nothing changes. What thrill is there when, day in and day out, the temperature never varies and the shell is just as round and hard and smooth as it was the day before? Soon you hear yourself asking strange questions. "What if this is all in vain? What if nothing ever happens and it’s all a big joke? What if I’m disappointed? What if God lets me down?"
Seeing through God’s eyes
One morning it dawned on me. These eggs are not boring at all -- they’re actually encouraging. A dear friend from church was frustrated with a spouse who had no interest in spiritual things. "I pray and pray and pray. I talk and witness and then I cry, worry, and pray more. Still, nothing changes. It makes no difference."
Without missing a beat, I glanced over at the climate-controlled box on top of my file cabinet. I explained to my friend that life’s most awesome mysteries happen in the most boring places. When there’s no visible changes, no reason to believe, no hope on the horizon…then stand back and "see the salvation of the Lord." He works on the inside -- in the soul -- where no human eye can detect His secret ways.
Sure, things look the same on the outside, but only the Lord can see what’s going on in the heart. It may seem to us that nothing is changing. The outer shell still appears to be hard and stubborn, but who can tell what’s growing on the inside? Not me. My part is to trust, faithfully obey, and wait. I know I’ll be amazed when God reveals the power of His grace, but it’s hard to remember that grace is sown in the heart, not on the skin. We’re not Chia pets.
Out of the mouth of babes
Today, I was lifted and encouraged by 17 brown eggs. The Lord used them to teach me to "walk by faith, not by sight." I’m thankful that God has hid some things from my eyes and revealed other things to "babes." My own wide-eyed optimistic "babes" seem to have more revelation than I do at this point. There’s a lesson in it for me (and you), I’m sure.
Against my counsel, 3 of my youngest children have started picking out "chicken names." My daughter (the baby) will choose names like Jade (after one of her dolls) or Heather (a young woman who has recently started attending our church). The boys have chosen names based upon the size and shades of the sepia-toned shells: Big Brownie, Tiny Tan. Their creativity and optimism increase each day. They instinctively know that something’s "goin’-on" inside those eggs -- something they can’t see -- yet they expect the "big reveal" every day. They aren’t sitting back waiting for day 21 like their Dad, and they’re not bored.
For the next few days five inquisitive minds will sporadically gaze into a borrowed incubator from sunrise to sunset. Their anxious gestures will remind me that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." While you and I may look on the outside and think nothing has changed, God is diligently shaping what’s inside. Isn’t that where He always starts? If you have adopted the frustrating mindset of "nothing ever changes," remember that the miracle is occurring inside the egg. Today, have hope… and wait like a child.
Timothy Palla is the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in the Lucasville/Minford area of Southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife Jennifer have five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. You may contact him at [email protected].