“Mom, we need a baby chicken in our lives.” These were the words coming from a very earnest six year old buckling up in the back seat of my car a few days ago. “I do not know if we NEED a baby chicken in our lives, buddy” I said trying to venture carefully into the conversation, not wanting to accidentally commit to the start of a backyard farm. “Yes, mom. We do. You love babies. The brothers love babies. They are so cute, and I know just how to take care of them. First, we need to build a coop…” He went on for the next ten minutes to tell me, in detail, all we would need to raise our baby chick and protect her from famine or a sudden attack of wild animals or (his words) “the bad guys.” Meanwhile, I kept thinking… what in the world are we going to do with chickens?!
This conversation with my son was not a one-off either. Every day for the next week he would broach the conversation again: “Mom, have you decided yet whether or not we can have the baby chick?” He would accompany his question with more facts and more details on chicken care to assure me that if I agreed, the chick would be more than well taken care of. He also reminded me that “Daddy loves animals, mommy. So, really just you need to decide.” Admittedly, I often feel that if I can just wait out these types of requests, they will morph into something easier to handle. For example, several months ago, this same animal-loving child spent weeks talking about wanting a bird in his room to keep him company. At first, I felt I would never be able to get him to back off of the bird, but eventually that bird morphed into fish. Now, he has 5 fish and a few snails keeping him company every night. Is this not what we as parents or even as human beings often do? Wait patiently, delay, push-off requests until they can morph more into something we feel comfortable committing to? Or is that just me?
Today’s readings are about repentance. In the Gospel, Jesus is bluntly saying to us “Yes, I have patience, but also note that my patience is not going to last forever. And even as I wait for you to respond, my message is not going to change. I may express my message through a parable. I may try and help you understand it by reflecting on current events. But the message is always the same – Repent!” Jesus is patient, but He is also persistent. He appreciates our need to let things marinate for awhile… but he never fails to come back and give us a gentle reminder of the decision we have to eventually make.
I am impressed by the persistence of my child. Even more by his patience in this matter. Every morning and every afternoon, he reminds me that I do, in fact, have to make a decision on the matter. There are, after all, eggs incubating that, when hatched, will need homes. “Mommy, have you decided yet?” he asks. And in a similar voice, full of love, I also hear the Lord asking “Gretchen, has my message reached you yet?”
This Lent, let us be open to hearing the questions the Lord is placing on each of our hearts. Let us recognize that He has extreme patience, but that His desires for us will not change. Let us have the courage to answer Him – “Yes, Lord. I will repent and follow you wherever you may lead.” Even if He leads me and my child to a coop of backyard chickens.