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The people walking in darkness are seeing a brilliant light— upon those who dwell in a land of

deep shadows light is shining! ~ Isaiah 9:2

Some birds hatch featherless, flightless, and blind. Others hatch ready to walk and feed themselves. Regardless of how much they develop inside the egg, all birds begin there. It is amazing how much growth happens in such a short period of time within the shell. The window is tiny for migratory birds to get to the breeding territory. In a matter of only a few weeks, incubation, hatching, and fledging must happen so the young birds can feed and grow and fly to the wintering grounds. Unlike mammals, the space where the offspring’s development happens does not expand in size. When growth exceeds the allotted space, the shell must be broken.

Anthropomorphizing is generally unproductive in trying to understand biology, but it can be an interesting way for us to relate to another species. It is unlikely that birds feel claustrophobia or fear inside the egg like we surely would. Still, it is interesting to imagine what the experience of hatching might be. There is a sort of urgency exhibited by a bird breaking through a shell that would reflect how most anyone would feel escaping such a cramped space. Unlike our births, where mothers do the work, birds receive little to know help in their hatching. They must push against and peck at the shell to force it out of the way.

What sorts of things in your life feel like a shell preventing your growth? Do you feel constrained and in the dark, fearful and anxious? Maybe there is something that you need to help burst forth that is right now growing inside you. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine that there is comfort in the warm darkness inside the egg. Perhaps there are times when you feel the desire to curl up and stay still in the known, because darkness is what you know. But there is that moment when the shell can no longer contain what is inside and it cracks. In that moment, the perfection of our known world disappears and something that seems to need repair arrives. But there is ancient Zen wisdom that we should embrace about cracks, they are where the light gets in.

Prayer: Light of the world, we have been walking in darkness so complete that the sliver of light coming through the cracks is blinding. Give us the courage and desire to walk in the light. Amen.


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