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In which God incubates the Church through a pandemic

We’re crouched in the dark, gently bending over the antique incubator. I hear a faint chirping, and my husband lifts the metal lid. There’s a bowl of water inside to keep the eggs soft, and the air smells like warm, wet grass. Inside, a newly hatched chick bravely stands, singing his baby victory songs. And from the dark insides of the surrounding eggs, a quiet choir – the other chicks singing in response to this brave soldier, even as their beaks begin to peck away at their shells. 

His songs are calling them out of the darkness, into the light. They’ve been awakened.

It’s been 21 days of incubation, 17 days of my husband faithfully rotating the fertilized eggs. This moving of the eggs, three times a day, ensures the chicks inside don’t die. And when we candle them, gently, to look for signs of life, we gasp over glimpses of veins, wings, beaks before carefully placing them back inside the heated bed.

Gathered in

We know that trying to intervene and help the chicks out of their shells would cripple or even kill them – their pecking, and chirping, and finally breaking out on their own is a necessary battle for their full development and health. 

And even as we place the newly hatched layers in their bed of saw dust, I recall the Word the Spirit spoke to me last spring when COVID came, and life and the world seemed to stop. The Spirit whispered, “Incubation.”

As piano lessons and schools and church buildings were shutting down, as people rushed to purchase toilet paper and guns, as fear led to conspiracy, led to confusion, God told me he was incubating his people. He was fulfilling the cry of his son in Luke 13:34. 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Ex nihilo

And even as the days turn into weeks, God keeps faithfully tending his brood, turning the eggs, three times a day, making sure they don’t die, peering inside their hearts for signs of life, delighting over the glimpses he sees – until the day comes to leave them alone. For they will have to respond to his faithful preparation and break free themselves. 

And meanwhile, as Zephaniah 3:17 tells us, even as we feel so desperately alone, God sings. He sings to his people, to us – and he waits; and from deep within the saddest and hardest places, the greatest longings, the deepest fears, a song emerges in response. His people, stirring – new life, formed somehow out of the seemingly impossible. Where once all we could see were eggs as smooth and unmoving as a stone before a tomb, chicks form to then turn into chickens, who will themselves produce eggs. From the dark brooding over the waters, from seemingly nothing, comes life, which begets life.

Church, can you hear your Father singing? 

COVID was the incubator. It may have felt like a lifeless tomb, but the Lord used it to form new hearts within us – for it was only when we were forced into the stillness, the darkness, that we got quiet enough to need him, and finally, to hear him.

And now – even as we shatter the shell, breaking free into new life, let’s sing to those around us – through our prayers and encouraging words, giving them the strength to emerge into the light, victorious. 

  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of the non profit The Lulu Tree. To learn more, please visit www.thelulutree.com.

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