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When John and I got married, we started walking this narrow path together.  Little by little God added to our group and soon we had three little girls following along.  Sometimes we’d hold hands, sometimes they’d skip along on their own.  As they grew, becoming more independent, occasionally one might fall back a little, walking at a distance from the rest of us.   If one stumbled or got hurt, John and I were quick to help them up.   We’ve done our best to walk in a way that helps them stay the course and not be led astray.   I know Jesus is always with us, but it’s been nice to have the company of each other as we journey along, especially when one of us is having a hard time.

The last few years and especially in the last few months that image of us all walking this road together has become so vivid in my mind and it comforts me.  There have been times when John and I have faltered and slowed down from hurt or tiredness and our girls were the ones to come back and help us along, putting their arms around our shoulders and reminding us of their love and God’s good plans.

In the last few weeks I’ve watched as each one in my family struggles through some rugged places on their own.  At this point in our path I hear God telling me to just keep walking and praying – that He will be the one to go to them and help them make it through.

I’ve not been privileged to see baby chicks hatch from their eggs but I’ve heard and read about it.  The process of getting out of the egg can take 8 hours or more and it’s tough from start to finish.  The little chick pecks a hole in the shell of the egg and then starts working away at that hole until it spreads and becomes a wider crack.  It moves around inside the egg, wiggling, pushing, pecking, taking little breathers then trying some more.  It’s hard work!  I can imagine the people watching would be so tempted to pull that little egg open and help the chick get out.  It might be stressful to watch it go through such a long ordeal just to be born.   The struggle is crucial, however, because it helps develop their muscles, lungs, and heart, making them more ready for life outside their little shell.  Once they finally push that last part of shell away from their little bodies, they lay there panting and resting for a while.

As hard as it is for me to watch my girls or my husband hurting, learning more trust, feeling lonely, persevering past the point of exhaustion, or trying to figure out who they are in God’s scheme of things, I have to just watch and pray.   Sometimes it takes a long while.   The struggle is crucial, however, for their hearts and spiritual muscles to become stronger, for their courage to swell, their faith to be steeled, their purpose revealed.   Jesus promised rest to us when we’re weary and I know He’ll also bring that to each of them when they need it most.  (Matthew 11:28)

I’ve also read that the loud peeps of the chicks that hatch first encourage those chicks that are lagging behind a bit and taking longer to make it out.  Like a runner in a marathon who gets a second wind when he hears those in front of him cross the finish line and people cheer, the sound of victory and joy from those in front of us on this path urges us on.  We help each other not to give up.

I think the hatching analogy could represent the birth of one’s own surrender to Christ, the time when that faith becomes personal and the “chick” owns it for the first time for real.  I can imagine it representing the “shell” of a particular lesson we need to learn or tough time we have to break through.   It could also represent our entire journey here on earth:  that we struggle in this long process of life, get little breathers here and there, than work and fight some more until the day when we break free from this earthly body’s shell and fall, eager for rest, into eternity with Jesus.

Don’t give up.  Don’t resist or resent the struggle.  It’s for our good, for all of us little chicks.

Is not all human life a struggle?  Job 7:1

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.  James 1:12  The Msg

…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18 NIV

Photo courtesy of Tommy Truong, from his blog “Tommy’s Pet Paradise”