March 2021 Featured Article

Humility: Scarce as Hen’s Teeth

Ever spent time considering chickens? Neither have I. Until now.


Not long ago, I participated in a Bible study seeking a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit. One lesson was subtitled “God wants to dwell among humble people.” Our discussions stimulated, challenged, and sometimes surprised me. It made me sit up and consider the Holy Spirit in a new way, particularly in the light of humility.


Which brings me back to chickens.


I fed a slew of the fowls as a girl. My farmer father would wring their necks. Mother would cut them up in a specific way so we could have a pulley-bone pullin’. And then she’d fry them—hearts, gizzards, necks, and livers too—crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.


Chickens bring to mind not only Sunday dinner but something else too. Sometimes referred to as personality, this characteristic of chickens suggests a definite lack of humility.


Hens can be downright unneighborly, squawking and flapping and pecking at a girl just trying to gather eggs. And those roosters … Mercy, roosters are a force to be reckoned with. Tread softly, very softly, in the chicken yard, ya’ll. Those claws can do some real damage.


I’ve noticed hens’ and roosters’ body parts from heads to feet and tail feathers. But I have yet to find a single tooth. Teeth are scarce in a chicken yard, and so is humility. But if you can ever find such a creature, she won’t peck a hole in a girl’s hand just for reaching for an egg. A contrite rooster won’t flog a boy who’s come to the chicken yard to scatter feed. Nor will a meek Main Mama strut her tail feathers before the other girls just because she out-lays every other hen in the yard.


Women are sometimes referred to as a bunch of hens. Or their laughter as cackling. I’d like to think some dour old rooster first came up with such unflattering comparisons, but if the metaphor fits, girls, we’ll wear it. You too, boys.


Speaking of wearing unflattering comparisons, the foul-dispositioned chicken/rooster/bad pun metaphor sometimes fits us humans. (Settle down now. No ruffled feathers allowed.) In the publishing business, for example, a well-intentioned question or improperly submitted query can spark a fluttering of wings at best and a flogging of the tongue at the worst. The same can be said of other fields, of course. Name it, and you’ll likely find the humility-lacking school administrator, business manager, politician, salesperson, service worker, teen, sibling, or parent.


Why? Often, it’s due to pressures, which abound in every sort of chicken yard—office buildings, markets, schools, churches, and homes. While the lowly pullets are struggling to learn and grow and peck and squawk like the big folks, the new mothers are hesitant, guarded, even irritable. And the old folks can be just plain grumpy.


But let a newcomer strut into the yard wearing a “Grade A” badge (or looking plain measly, for that matter), and the others stop and stare. If the badge-less one dares to ask where she’s to “set” or he, where to strut, Mr. Ruling Rooster and Mrs. Main Mama sharpen their claws. After all, those two have been around awhile and enjoy a following, so they figure they can let fly some barbs. Even in their blogs.


Perhaps prideful Mr. Rooster and busier-than-anyone-else Main Mama should take a step back and consider the setting hen over in the corner, the one who’s trying her best to lay that first egg. Or the young mama who laid an egg, but it rolled and splatted on the ground. And don’t overlook the hen house veteran who produces nests full of eggs but never a chick, but she keeps trying.


If Mr. and Mrs. Exalted Success Story take a look in the mirror, they won’t find they’ve grown teeth, but maybe—just maybe—they’ll find egg on their faces and uncover some humility.


Could be we all need a strong dose of humility, chicken yard or nay. Excuse me while I dab at a spot of egg on my face.

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