We raised chickens for a dozen years. We grew to appreciate their quirky ways, individual personalities, willingness to eat scraps, and how they lost their composure if they knew we were coming their way with mealworms. I don’t know what their IQ is relative to human beings – it might not be very high – but I know they are geniuses at making eggs. More than once, I’ve cracked one open, let the contents spill into a bowl, and marveled at how incomprehensible it is.
How do those feathered bodies take what they eat (grain, weeds, insects, and worms) and silently create three separate substances: a yellow yolk, a viscous fluid full of clear liquid, and a perfectly engineered calcium shell that holds and protects these two substances? And how do they coordinate the process in real-time? And do that 800 times in a lifetime? If fertilized, each yolk can become a new chicken, which, at just the right time, pecks its way through the shell to begin its own journey of creating life. And all this, might we say, with a bird brain. (No disrespect intended.)
No doubt modern biology has comprehended the chemical and physical processes that make it all possible. But it’s still hard for me to fathom.
The mystery of eggs is honored in two spiritual celebrations occurring this season – Passover and Easter.
I have had the privilege of participating in several Passovers with the local Jewish community, and each item on the table is full of symbolism. Each carries a reminder of how the children of Israel were liberated from bondage in Egypt, what the experience was like, and how that can inform our values in the present day. Hard-boiled eggs have their place alongside the lamb, parsley, matzah, salt water, wine, and other items. The egg can represent many things, including the potential for a new spiritual life and the resilience required to endure suffering.
At the heart of the Passover story is the tale of a ragtag group of oppressed slaves being led to freedom by a mysterious, unseen force determined to liberate them and lead them into a better life.
Decorated eggs are a universal symbol of Easter — a vivid, tactile symbol of rebirth. The empty shell is associated with the empty tomb where new life and light break out from what appeared to be a final darkness.
At the heart of the Easter story is an obscure peasant carpenter who spoke truth to power and was publicly executed for challenging a status quo that marginalized people of all backgrounds, gender, and social status. Thanks to a mysterious, unseen force, this man emerges on the other side of physical death as a living presence, demonstrating that the values he lived for are indestructible.
At the heart of both stories is the theme of a spiritual power present in the world that does amazing things in ways we can’t fully understand.
My Inner-Skeptic Voice sometimes says, “Really? Are these things still believable in our modern culture? Many people claim all kinds of things happen in this world that just aren’t credible.”
My Open-Minded Voice says, “That is true. But look at the ways in which you’ve seen this divine power heal, empower, and transform people. Times in which you’ve seen people approach the boundary of life and death and lose their fear, sensing they are not at the end but a new beginning. And all those times when people inspired by these stories have gone on to serve humanity with courage, vision, and love.”
I certainly don’t know how a chicken creates an egg, but I’ve seen what goes in and what comes out, and it’s a wonder.
I don’t know how the divine spirit works, but many times I have seen the results, and it too is a wonder.
Top Image: “Cracking Open an Egg,” extension.umd.edu
Lower image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_egg