‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ The most common response is this, ‘To get to the other side.’
If you’ve never been asked this question in your life, you need to check your surroundings: you’ve been living under a rock. In my experience, the #1 stale joke opening question is this, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ Even ‘knock-knock’ jokes offer more entertaining responses. No one has ever produced knee-slapping responses to the question, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’. I’m sure, even now, you’re combing your memory for a funny response to this question. I won’t discourage you. You can continue. I’m sure you will hardly find a really rib-tickling response. If you do, you can leave it in the comments section.
As I was preparing for this week’s message, though, it hit me like a ton of bricks: the question, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ was never intended to be a joke. It was intended to be a matter of inspiration, inspiration towards purpose! (I can just hear you retorting, ‘Now that’s funny!)
Before you roll your eyes at the thought, humour me (no pun intended). What do we think when we think of a chicken? In the jargon, the metaphor ‘chicken’ identifies the coward. We even refer to a simple person as a ‘chicken brain’, don’t we? But yet, the chicken crossed the road. What’s more, we have traditionally used roosters to wake us in the morning, haven’t we? But hey! I’m not judging!
Now, when we say that someone has ‘crossed the road’ we might mean that that person has taken quite a chance, that the person has displayed some tremendous courage, that the individual has completely gone over to the other side of the road (no reference to one of the many chicken-joke punch lines here) to pursue something extraordinary, something fantastic, something that no one would have imagined them doing and even something that might qualify them as having lost their mind.
Let’s now link all this chicken-crossing-the-road talk to Acts 11 where Simon Peter might be regarded as the chicken crossing the road for having gone to the house of the Gentile. This was after he had had the dream of the sheet descending from heaven full of ‘unclean animals’ which he was being told to kill and eat. Peter’s visit to the uncircumcised man was no act of a crazy, birdbrain! No, this was the act of one who was fulfilling one of the missions in his literally God-given purpose.
Two weeks ago, we read in the Gospel, that he had been told to feed God’s sheep and to tend His lambs. Let me take you back, though, to the early Gospels. In Matthew 10, Jesus told the disciples to go nowhere among the Gentiles and to enter no town of the Samaritans. Rather, they were to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. However, by the end of that very Gospel (Matthew 28), Jesus would tell them to go to all nations. Additionally, just before His ascension (Acts 1), He instructs them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria (earlier off-limits). Now in Acts 11, Peter was having a dream in which he was being told that what God had made clean, he was not to call profane. Friends, is this not a manner of ‘crossing the road’?
Bringing it all together in the context of the purpose conversation, I say that purpose requires us to be that chicken crossing the road. Purpose requires us to be that supposedly crazy one, whom others will challenge and whom others will ridicule. Purpose requires us to take life-threatening chances. Just consider here how risky it would be for any chicken to cross a road, especially a busy road. Purpose requires us to step away from the norm, to step outside the box. Purpose requires us to stand up and to stand out. Purpose requires us to cross the road…to go against the grain of the flow.
Think here: what daring chances are you being called to take? What are the conventions that you are being called to challenge? What are the far-fetched and remote opportunities you are being drawn to pursue? What are the old habits, thoughts and words, that you are being called to leave behind in order to move forward? Perhaps, your mother, your grandmother, your aunts and uncles, and many of your cousins were teachers. But you are being called to open a school; you are being called to take the scale of the teaching profession in your family to a new level. Maybe all of your siblings studied sciences, but you are the one to pursue languages or culinary arts because you are being called in a different direction. What is that road you are being called to cross? Friends, sometimes, purpose isn’t just a journey along a road; sometimes, it’s a journey across a road. Do not allow the history of your family, do not allow your history to limit your future. Purpose will often require you to break the mould of history because your future cannot be built on an insufficient past. If this sounds like your story, I encourage you to stand up, step out and cross the road.
So, now, I repeat: I do know why the chicken crossed the road. She crossed because she had to fulfil her purpose. To do it, required courage, guts and mind-boggling risk. By doing it, this chicken proves that she is no coward. By doing it, she will know that her living will not have been in vain.
As I close, I bid you too to cross the road for then you find purpose; it is then you find
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