Break out of your shell and live

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I watched a chicken break its shell the other day. I heard the steady pecking and witnessed the gradual cracking of the hard surface. A tiny head peeked out. The infant bird feebly -- then excitedly -- attempted to lift its head and see the its new world. It experienced such difficulty, and I realized that was only a beginning.

Consequently, I pictured the fertilized egg that never hatched. What happened to it? First of all, the embryo lying inside was never born. It bore no fruit; instead the life inside deteriorated and smelled bad. When it was thrown away, its rotten contents ruined everything they touched. I thought of what might have been if circumstances had been different -- if more attention had been paid to the egg and it had been tended. Then that infant, too, may have possessed the tenacity to break into the world -- able to use its abilities to hatch future chickens or supply food for the population.

I pondered the scenario of hatching eggs and being born. Why couldn't an egg just remain an egg? C. S. Lewis opened my eyes to how the difficulty of being born or hatched affects all of life's endeavors.

He alleged that while it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, it would be a sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.

We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must hatch or go bad.

Although being born and living life every day isn't always easy, we'll never accomplish anything if we refrain from branching out. From breaking away from our shell of contentment and learning new skills and making new friends. We often remain passive, merely plodding along doing what we must do. Just as rotten eggs whose embryos are never born spread over and affect everything they touch, our attitude of laziness, discontent and apathy touches everyone with whom we interact. Have you ever been excited about a project yet the person with whom you shared your exuberance demonstrated little interest? It dampens the spirit, often causing one to cease pursuing a goal.

Even though it's sometimes less stressful, we can't continue being just plain decent people. If we maintain the pattern of ordinariness without vision and dreams, we'll be like the plain decent ordinary egg. We'll never become more than we are. We'll never fly. We must crack our shell of complacency, ignorance, fear of the unknown and lack of faith, and depend more on God.

Jesus asks us, too: "Why are you terrified? Do you yet not have faith?" Mark 4: 34-41

When we continue being plain decent eggs mired in shells of familiarity, our faith often seems stronger. To assure we remain safe we stay in our ruts, never learning to fly into a new job or ministry, create a family or move to a new location. "Why change anything if it works?" we ask. According to the modern writer Henry Miller, "The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble."

If we fail to break the barriers holding us captive, we'll be crippled too.

I urge you to break out of your shell, now, and fulfill your mission. You're an irreplaceable child of God who has a job for you alone. Unlike the plain decent egg; emphasize what can be done, rather than what cannot. Things improve when people get involved. Remember, with God's help everything is possible. So, "be hatched and produce rather than stagnate and go bad!"

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish.

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