We have a sweet hen we call Truffle. She is a fraction the size of our other girls, runs with her chest puffed out, as if she’s seeking an edge over the finish line. Truffle has become an outcast, the lowest in the pecking order. The other three hens, all sisters, chase after her cruelly. The only time they are together is at night, in the coop. She sleeps separated while the others pile in, layering on top of one another. Each morning when the chickens are released, she flies out the open front door, while the sisters shuffle through the back, into the fenced area. Truffle, instead of being subject to angry pecks all day, prefers to wander the yard at her leisure, cavorting with the sheep, and meandering the remains of the garden beds.
Typically, in the dark winter months, hens take an egg-laying hiatus. With the colder temperatures and shorter days we have needed the heat lamp for warmth, so the hen bodies have been tricked into believing the days are longer. The other three have been laying religiously, while Truffle, unless she is laying in an undisclosed location, does not provide us with her daily egg, probably from the stress induced by the other birds.
Apparently, once a hen’s laying days are over, once they are no longer useful, it’s time to make a meal. What about our Truffle? Since she is not currently laying, is she of less value to us than the other three hens? What is her worth?
This idea of worth is very important one to consider. I cannot begin to express the number of conversations I have with women regarding their perceived value, particularly among the subset who stay home, not with the little children, but with the tweens and teenagers. On the outside, it can appear a vacation…six hours a day to oneself. How is my purpose as a wife, mother, woman determined when my children really don’t need or want me for most of each day? And, as a good and wise parent, it’s my job to let them go. How do I define my worth? What am I contributing to the world? What do I contribute to my family?
In this land of ours, worth is widely defined by our monetary accomplishments and accolades. If I’m not bringing home a decent wage, contributing to the bottom line of our family unit, then what am I worth? If I’m only taking but not giving, why keep me around? I know it sounds a bit harsh, but isn’t this the heart of our struggle? What am I worth if I don’t make ___, or weigh ____, or wear ____, or eat ____, or accomplish ____, or have _____ or look like ______. Clearly, this list is endless…and I’m only speaking from my female perspective. What about our male counterparts? Our husbands, fathers and sons? What kind of pressure is on them…same underpinnings, different scenarios.
I have recently come crashing up against this as a mother to a fifteen year old young man. Here I find myself in this land that makes no sense. The days of anticipating and providing for most needs, gone, seemingly vanished overnight. My purpose as his mother is nebulous, with no specific role to grasp. I know my theoretical importance, but the practice is quite fuzzy. The problem seems to lie mainly with how I feel about my role..when, on a good day, I might exchange 10 words and spend 10 minutes with the child.
I have come to realize, like with my sweet chicken, our worth is in the being…being present, available, human. That little chicken brings more laughs than I feel free to admit. She will more than likely, never be in our soup because of the joy she brings to us all and the void her absence will create when she is gone. Because she has a name.
My work now is to recognize my worth as a human being, because I am alive, because I breathe and move and talk and am. Because I have a name. My value as a human, as a woman, has absolutely no association with my outward proving: what I do, who I’m with, the heritage of my family of origin, the amount of money I earn, or what I own. My worth is inherent because I am, belonging to this planet, loving and being loved. Ultimately, I am worthy because I am created, made not to accomplish anything in particular, but to be known and loved by the One who knows and loves me beyond measure. Just as I sit and watch that funny little chicken, deriving joy because she’s just being Truffle. How much more does God see in us…this masterpiece, not just made of flesh and bone, but wit and ferocity and grace and beauty and opinion and feeling and fight and severity.
I believe that when we live out of our worthiness, we will find freedom, beauty, gratitude and grace…not for others, but for ourselves. Out of this will flow our work, our purpose, our calling…able to set aside fear, moving forward in love and trust.
Nothing more needs to be accomplished in order for us to be exceedingly valuable and remarkably beautiful.