I discovered a vast chicken population on my Hawaii trip.
Yes. Chickens in Hawaii, the island of Kauai in particular. Of all the sights from the breathtaking sunsets, mountains, canyons, and waterfalls, nothing surprised me more than the number of feral chickens.
Though it might have started out amusing for me to point out EVERY chicken we saw, it probably got old fast. Good thing my husband is willing to embrace the fact that I’m a quirky little nut.
I’m from Tennessee. Chickens are a little expected here. But Hawaii? There were chickens in the middle of our hike through jungle-like foliage, in the parking lot of KFC, poking around by the pool at our very nice hotel, and at our remote campsite. There are T-shirts and plush chickens commemorating this oddity. They are an absolute nuisance to some, and a fascination to others.
Since I am in the fascination camp, I did a little research while I was there. These chickens are rumored to be the descendants of chickens that escaped when Hurricane Iwa blew open coops in 1982, and again in 1992 during Hurricane Iniki. The escaped chickens mated with descendants of red jungle fowl brought over when the Polynesians first settled in Hawaii.
A sort of reverse domestication. Scientists come to the island to study these 100% free range birds, far more hearty, resilient, and disease free than their domesticated counterparts. They do genetic studies in hopes that they’ll find a way to breed such traits into domesticated chickens.
My parents have a few chickens on their farm. So much work goes into protecting and caring for them. Somehow the Hawaiian birds get along just fine, with the exception of failed road crossings.
Sometimes I think we Christians need a little reverse domestication of our own. Before some of you take this way too far, hold on and hear me out. No baby out with the bath water mentality…promise?
In our church pews, if we aren’t careful, we can become a little like the cooped chickens. Great birds inside the coop, but frail and susceptible once we venture out-of-doors. We have our pecking order. We’re ready to be fed a balanced diet on schedule. And if we get sick in spirit or body, we expect the good farmer to come tend us. Not a bad deal all around.
The problem is, we can have a tendency to pull God into our box. The only outreach we participate in are the ones our church organizes. The only sermon we hear is the one from the pulpit on Sunday. The only spiritual food we eat is what is served on the platter.
If that happens, it is time for a little reverse domestication. Here is my disclaimer: I DID NOT say to abandon regular church attendance. I DID NOT absolve pastors from leading their congregation and providing well-studied sermons. In fact, a well led congregation knows how to free range. They’ve been led by example by pastors who are more concerned with kingdom building than church (little c) buiding.
It’s time to get back to our undomesticated early Christian roots. Are we meeting together with our Christian brothers and sisters, lifting one another up with encouraging words and prayer? Are we foraging for little messages God wants to speak to our own hearts on a daily basis? Are we aware that our lives “outside the coop” are our place to reach the brokenhearted? Sure, invite them to church to hear your pastor’s sermon. But first, what sermon is your life preaching to them every day? Is it a message that leaves them wanting to know more about what shapes your life?
Before you fly the coop ready to embrace your roots, make sure to take a few tips from reverse domesticated chickens. Use caution when crossing the road, and stick close to your flock. Isolation is dangerous. Now, go shake off the domestication.
I’ll conclude with a few Chronicles of Narnia quotes… Because the idea of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan draws me out of my coop in such a poetic way.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. Lewis,
“Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion.
“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”
― C.S. Lewis,
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