Being American, which comes with American associations of words, I vividly remember talking with a student in my early years in China. He was asking me what animal I was based on the year I was born (sheep, if anyone cares). He proudly told me he was a cock and I about fell over. I don’t use that word, people I hang out with don’t use that word, and my internal reaction was pretty strong. In part, I chalked it up to another clash between British and American English.
However, in preparation for this post, I asked a native British English speaker if that word had a similar internal reaction to her. She explained that she would use “cockerel” or “rooster” interchangeably, but had a similar reaction to the shortened word. Book club, a chance to learn. Smile.
Even though I know better, I can forget to consider broader contexts. I learned that “the rooster’s association with the male phallus is not just a coincidence of modern slang. The link is ancient. It’s hard to find a time or culture where the cock was not associated with masculine virility.”
The little bit I know about cockfighting horrifies me. My first exposure was in high school when I read (and fell in love with) Walter Wangerin’s Book of the Dun Cow. It is an “allegory of good and evil pits Chauntecleer, the mighty rooster, against the nefarious and serpentine Wyrm.” Similar to the White Witch and Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the battle between Chauntecleer and Wyrm shows the battle that was fought on our behalf.
I hadn’t tied before that roosters are referenced with Peter and his denial and at the very time the disciples are still jockeying and acting like a group of roosters. In the Bible study (found here), Caitlin had us ponder this passage in Luke and asked: “As you read these verses, prayerfully consider how you desire to be the ‘greatest’ or ‘most important.’ What is God prompting you in your heart? How are you ‘fighting’ for a title or place of honor?”
More often than I wish were true, put a group of cross-cultural workers together and instead of working together, something akin to a rooster personality comes out and we attack each other. We become territorial. We function out of scarcity instead of generosity.
“It seems like lunacy, and I think we all do it—maybe not outright, but as a sort of running commentary in our heads. We waste a lot of time worrying about where we fit in some phantom hierarch. I am not a teenage boy. I am a grown woman, but I do it a lot. It’s exhausting.”
Is this our fate? Are we destined to attack each other or to constantly compare ourselves to others? “Although Jesus certainly seems to part ways with religious authorities and the Roman rule, and though he certainly seem to walk through the world without much fear, I can’t rad him like a cock. His fearlessness seems to have more to do with trust than some sort of cockiness.” Ah, trust. Yes.
A few pages over, “The God that Jesus reveals doesn’t seem bent on manifesting power as we conceive of power. The disciples of Jesus only rarely seem to grape this, if at all.” I think we need to hear this again and again.
I loved the final section she entitled “Freedom.”
“The disciples don’t look like winners in the stories they tell to spread the gospel. They have mostly small parts in the drama, and none of them are heroes. Somewhere along the line they must have gotten free from that thing that made them need to fight to be the greatest. Maybe there is something about discipleship that ends up looking like that: the freedom to tell a story where you don’t look good. Maybe there’s something essential about that. Perhaps it’s this freedom that helps to spread the good news. It’s the opposite of cockiness.”
I love that the disciples told the truth of how the interacted. I agree, they don’t look like winners. They look like a ministry team, eh?! May this encourage us today that we don’t have to make ourselves look better. We just have to be who we are.
In that vein, I’m going to sign off. I need to get an update to supporters and am tired. I have a cold, nothing major, but I was on a panel this morning sharing about Velvet Ashes and member care. It was a delight to be in a room of people who care deeply about what we are doing (spreading the good news) and caring for the workers. But because I’m sick, it took a lot more energy than I anticipated. So, in not looking like a hero who is always the peak of health and ready to go-go-go, I’m saying, “See you in the comments and trust that by the time you read this I am feeling better.”
P.S. Next bird? The hen!