How Like the Rooster We Can Be {Book Club}

Sometimes I think Debbie Blue chooses certain words just to be provocative. Such is the case with todays bird in Consider the Birds, And then I wonder, why does it bother me that she is a bit like a prophet. She pokes and prods, but it is generally in the direction of God. In general, she doesn’t seem to be provocative just to poke and watch people squirm.

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!


  1. Emily Smith November 7, 2016

    “The disciples don’t look like winners in the stories they tell to spread the gospel”
    This right here would have been enough for me for the entire chapter. The focus on image and looking good to those around us seems to have gotten distorted. Because I think there are so many ways to go wrong.
    There are times we tell the stories that glorify the ugly parts or excuse the sin.
    There are times we tell the stories that hide the ugly parts entirely.
    There are times we are unloving and not compassionate because it could lead to messy situations and less than perfect stories. We hold back and stay silent and sweep things under the rug, because exposing it would be uncomfortable.

    But sometimes we get it right. When the sin and heartbreak and brokenness are there as the backdrop, they allow grace and restoration to come to the center. There are parts that aren’t pretty and may be incredibly uncomfortable. But as a whole, it is attractive and the gospel spreads. Still, it takes laying down weapons and getting out of the fight to be the greatest and the best. It sounds so easy, but…yeah, not easy.

    1. Amy Young November 8, 2016

      Oh man, Emily, you nailed it. I’m wondering now if when Jesus was talking about the way being narrow he wasn’t only referring to the path to God (of course, mainly he was!), but also to the way of balancing power and vulnerability and the other aspects we have looked at in this book. You’re right that “getting it wrong” can take on so many faces! (Almost discouraging, I’ll admit.) But then, as you said, “sometimes we get it right.” Encouraging me that it IS possible to get it right. Here’s to stumbling and dancing together towards Jesus and his endless source of love and help for us.

  2. Elizabeth November 24, 2016

    I loved this chapter. Loved it so much I waited to comment on it until I had more time 🙂

    She points out that the rooster crowing comes at the exact moment Jesus is giving UP power. Wow what a juxtaposition. Jesus has a different type of strength than the arrogant, feisty little cock.

    And how fascinating that the roosters don’t have to be trained to fight. It is natural as long as they come in close proximity to another rooster. How like us. Male or female, we compete and compare. It is the reason my husband doesn’t like to hang around men — too much ra ra ra save-the-world talk. And it the reason many women don’t like to hang around other women — too much competition and one-up-man-ship.

    Earlier this year I was going to speak to a group of women about self-confidence and Christ’s love. I knew I wanted to tell the story I told here a couple years back (Jesus Loves Me This I Sometimes Know). but I also knew I wanted a sturdier Bible study to back it up. As I was preparing for the study by looking at the lives of the disciples (I started with John and expanded from there), I saw this continuous thread of competition and comparison throughout the gospels, just like the author notes. And then I saw much different men writing about God’s strong love in the epistles. I knew that meant Jesus had changed these men irrevocably, and that was the foundation of our study (here it is, silly me I should have linked it to the Grove back when this theme was “live” but my mom was visiting and I hadn’t read the chapter yet! ).

    So when I read through this chapter I was nodding my head in agreement — it was truth I had already encountered and therefore strongly felt its impact here. I also love how the gospels — and the Bible in general — do not shy away from telling the whole ugly truth about human followers of the Triune God. Men who were still caught up in comparison and competition would never write the things that were written in the Old and New Testaments. But men who were caught up in the story and power and grace of GOD would be willing to sacrifice their reputation to tell the story the way it needed to be told, to tell the story the way we need to hear it.

    I also love how she challenges the description of masculinity in Jesus. It’s not that He’s not powerful. It’s that the way He expresses His power is different from the way the world would express its power. And I love how she casts Jesus as fearless, not arrogant. I would never have thought arrogant anyway, but she’s tearing down the modern push for a MANLY man in Jesus. That His fearlessness comes from trust (trust was also a theme in the raven chapter — huh).

    And the section on how we are ALL betrayers — YES. There is an idea out there that “you are the only person who won’t betray you,” and that even cites God as the one teaching that lesson. I remember reading that and thinking, no no no, not true, we will all betray ourselves at some point, do something we don’t believe in, we all sin, we betray God, etc etc, so I doubly nodded my head when Debbie started in on how we all betray, we all resist the direction Jesus is going. Of course, that is what it means to be human and to be in need of redemption.

    Loved how she dug into Darwinism as a scapegoat for our competition — that some people think it’s biologically necessary to compete — but that scientists actually say if the universe were not more cooperative than competitive, everything would fall apart. Thankfully we do have a God of abundance and competition for His love and favor is not necessary — His love and favor are ALREADY given. How marvelous to have a God like this.

    And of course as I’m said in other places, I always appreciate a focus on communion/Lord’s Supper. And I had never put two and two together about the “cock fighting” right at the Last Supper, right at a time when we should all be forgetting ourselves and our own self-importance. But the placement is hopeful — the disciples had not grown yet into the men Jesus desired them to be, the men He knew they COULD be, thus the fight. But we can hope — they grew, and so can we. Communion CAN be a time of coming together and losing ourselves. But I will stop now before I find myself unable to stop. Thanks for letting me go on this long 🙂

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