We have been incubating fertilized chicken eggs through March. Homeschooling allows the freedom to take on science projects that are a little more complicated and a lot more fun.
They have yet to hatch but we have been "candling" to check on the progress and health of the embryos. Candling is the process of holding a small and bright light up to the egg while in a dark room. This allows you to observe the outline of what is going on in the egg through its development.
It has been amazing to watch the little embryos emerge from a web of veins and then see them wiggle in their safe little enclosures. 11 out of 12 are healthy and moving inside their protective shells but one did not make it. And there might be others that will not hatch but this one will definitely not hatch.
The non-viable egg has not developed but you can see a small, slightly formed embryo still inside and I can barely bring myself to do something about it. If you fail to remove the failed eggs, they run the risk of exploding and spreading harmful bacteria on all the other healthy eggs. So the egg needs to be removed.
I am stuck because I do not want to see the dead embryo in the egg. I feel like it would be scientifically important to look at it but at the same time it will not be easy to look at. Quite honestly because it is rather grotesque.
The number 40 is chosen for Lent because 40 is the length of human gestation, it is the time in which new birth happens. Throughout the Bible people have had “40” experiences: 40 days and nights in the ark, 40 years in the wilderness for Moses, 40 days in the desert for Elijah before he encountered God, 40 days for Jesus in the desert.
But the process of becoming, the process of being formed into something new is not always without its unpleasantries - which you know if you have been pregnant or close to someone that is. New birth is a process that is filled with vomit, puffy faces and ankles, bursting veins and blood clots in legs and near death experiences, sore backs, sleepless nights, bruised ribs, and general uncomfortableness near the end. Space is being made for a new life which means organs are rearranged and the bearer’s body will never be the same.
New life is not always pleasant to see before it is complete.
And yet, as I look at that embryo - not yet formed, still and never to live, it is also incredibly wonderous. How those black spots for eyes, head, small beak, and tail were formed inside an egg...an egg! A magnificent miracle.
Life is messy isn’t it? We are messy people and the world we live in is imperfect. Our own metamorphosis’ are often not very nice to look at. The "stuff" that we all have isn’t always beautiful on its own. The process of being sanctified and purified is not necessarily always beautiful.
Think of the priests in the temple. The Sunday School flannel graphs depict priests in white clothes with a blue ephod. Both garments being spotless. And, perhaps, this is appropriate for children who do not know about death or ritual animal sacrifice. But any Jewish child in the ancient world would have known that priests were not identifiable as clean, spotless men. You would know them by the smell of blood, fire smoke, and sweat. Or perhaps by the stains of blood that covered their clothes, hands, and faces. Their job was to cleanse those who sinned and it involved the fluids of life and general mess. Not the picture we want. But the necessary way to be forgiven and atoned for before Jesus came. Forgiveness and atonement are wondrous gifts.
Our little science project has been a good reminder to me that new life is both wondrous and messy, ugly at times. In 2 Corinthians, God tells Paul that His strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Scripture points to the reality that as we walk faithfully through our own new birth into Christ-like people and face our own messiness with God (it must always be WITH God) - that we might just outwardly appear to others the way pregnant women do. Pregnant women, though in the throws of pain, discomfort and living in a body that feels a shadow of their former selves are stunningly beautiful. They have a glow and beauty of the becoming though they might not feel it, others see it. They carry the exquisite mark of new life being formed.
If you are in the middle of some new birth in your own life and feel yourself in the midst of muck and mess, take heart. You are most likely on the right track with God. You are on the track to becoming more like Christ.
In our weakness, in our becoming, Jesus is being glorified to those around us. He is the giver of life and He is certainly beautiful. So beautiful that his friends were not able to recognize Him when he appeared again for they had never seen anyone look like Him - wondrous in the glow of the very first new birth. Beaming with the light of having triumphed over death. And this is the new birth that we, as followers of Jesus, have access to now and are looking forward to ourselves.