At the risk of sounding like, or appearing a Luddite, I have to state how unequivocally I loathe involuntary, unwelcome change to my electronic tools. That is change for no discernible reason, without my knowledge or permission. It is very difficult for me to embrace things I neither asked for nor wanted, and when it is “Surprise! Look what we did to your computer while you were sleeping!”, I am thrust into a Grandma Growl (that’s what my grandchildren call the low, throaty growling sound I make when situations in which I find myself are really irritating) state of mind.
As sleeping through the night has become somewhat of a distant memory, I keep positive by using the quiet and solitude to write. But that positive attitude at 3:30 in the morning only works if my computer is working, which this morning it was not. Or it seemed not to be working. Little did I know, at the time, my trusty laptop was being updated from afar, and the dark unresponsive screen, except for the small pulsating logo, was not a major electronic disaster, as I initially thought.
The belief I was in absolute throes of disaster was because of my amazing internal clock that often is shocking in how well it works. This inside my brain timepiece is so reliable, I have not owned an alarm clock in years, can gauge how long it will take to perform a task, drive somewhere, or respond to a kitchen timer before it ever begins to beep with extreme accuracy. This skill does have its downside. When something seems as though it should be done, or ready, I am unable to wait patiently beyond that moment. I need to prove things to myself, and by that I mean I am compelled to root out the source of the problem, and find out if there is actual progress, or not.
So this morning, as I impatiently waited for something to happen on my computer screen, prodding and poking keys, coaxing it to turn on, watching it ignore my efforts, wondering if it had expired during the night, and taken all my cyber life with it; I remembered moments that should have taught me everything does not necessarily function according to my timetable, and waiting is not a bad thing. And one particular moment that should have taught me the universe, seen and unseen, does not revolve around just me, and its existence on any and all levels does not depend upon the tick tock within my control or understanding.
That lesson began with me being a little girl who wanted answers to everything, and was surrounded by adults who were bent on providing, what seemed to them, reasonable responses to a child’s questions. Even when the answers were not exactly, precisely true. I believe they did the best they knew how, and they had no idea the devastating effect their slight misleadings caused me. The worst of these had both an extreme theological and temporal impact on me, the likes of which took me years to overcome. And it was all because of a chicken.
In the 1950’s my grandparents owned a chicken ranch, and I loved springtime when they replenished their stock with new baby chicks. They were cute little balls of yellow fluff, and their sweet chirping was music to my ears. We were not allowed to enter the building where the chicks were kept, but it was easy to spy on them when no one was looking. I remember how innocent they seemed, just content to happily chirp, walking around in their sawdust covered brooder as though nothing or no one would ever hurt them.
I certainly was not going to let on to them the end of their days would most likely be in an oven in a restaurant, or some lady’s frying pan on a Sunday afternoon. Country kids knew these things, and accepted them as normal; chicks grew up to be big white chickens that were used for laying eggs, and then were eaten, sooner or later. And once in a while, a chick did not make it to the grown up stage. Having observed the dispatching of, and preparation for eating of many chickens over the years, my siblings and I had no particular emotional tie to the little chicks; they were sweet and fun to watch scurry around, but that was pretty much the extent of it.
On one Sunday afternoon, my grandfather came out of the building where the brooder was, carrying a box with a dead baby chick in it. I had been waiting for just this occasion, and though it took quite a bit of pleading and convincing, he finally turned the box and its contents over to me. I had been very persuasive, but did not tell him the whole story: I had plans for an experiment, and the dead chick was the necessary component to its success. There have been few times in my life I was this excited to get about my business, and who would not have been? There was going to be an encounter with God.
Being a child who loved Sunday School, church, and church people; I could not wait to go to there, could not get enough of the Bible stories, and everything that pertained to God. I loved Him and everything about Him. Because we were getting older and had begun to read, my age group in Sunday School was beginning to delve into weightier things, two being death and heaven. We were taught none of us had to be afraid to die, because when we did, we would go straight to heaven. That sounded splendid to me, and I embraced the idea with complete abandon. I even talked about it with my parents and grandparents, and they, too, said our final destination was heaven, and we would all be there together, some day.
Here comes the tricky part. Liking to get a complete picture of things, I asked if animals went to heaven when they died. My mother told me they did. My Sunday School teacher told me she did not know, but she hoped they did. I needed to know, was compelled to find out, and had the means by which I could prove it. A dead chick in a box.
The funeral for the chick was brief, but sincere. I buried the little bird out in my grandparents’ sandy backyard, marked its grave with a cross I fashioned out of twigs, and went my way, knowing that in a week my deepest theological question would be answered. When I came back the following Sunday, I would revisit the chick’s grave, and have proof that God took His deceased creations to heaven. I believed with my entire being there would be an empty chicken grave when I returned, and my heart soared with excitement and joy that no one would ever again have to be worried about what happened after we died.
For the sake of the squeamish and those not accustomed to time-affected forensic evidence, I merely state what I found in my grandparents’ backyard the next weekend was a far cry from what I expected. The chick was right where it had been deposited the week before, but a lot worse off for time passed.
I was devastated, and literally travailed before God for quite some time in disappointment and horror, wanting to know why people had not told me the truth, why He had not done what they said He would do, and worst of all, what could I actually believe from that point on. It took me years to recover from that awful experience, and even more years to come to a place of peace about God’s timing versus my expectations.
So, even though I have a really good clock inside my head, and use the time I have been given to the best of my ability, I have learned the times and seasons do not belong to me, in that I do not control them, nor the outcomes of all my efforts. Sometimes, I just have to wait. And sometimes the results are different from what I had hoped; but, at the end, finding I have been updated and repaired from afar makes it worthwhile. And as long as the On/Off switch is still working, I am a better version of myself and definitely good to go.