Chickens. Owl. Little girl. God.

The bloodcurdling midnight scream woke our granddaughter.  She flew to the window in time to see something white fall from a tall spruce several yards beyond the house. The dogs heard it too. They rushed the area, yapping and barking at something circling above. A predator on the wing, gunning for one terrified white chicken named Julie, huddled on the ground. She’d gone missing two days earlier.

It hadn’t been a good week. Two of our grandchildren’s four pet chickens had already died. They’d found them on the ground outside the coop, two mornings in a row; each one a tangled mess of bloodied feathers. Something had ripped their backs open to devour the flesh inside.

They blamed the dogs at first. But then Julie went missing. In retrospect, it seems she flew the coop in order to try to escape the predator that had killed her flock members.

Not a dog. An owl, simply doing what owls do. Catching dinner.

Before the killings, our youngest granddaughter adored owls. She has owl stuffies, owl pillows, owl blankets, owl toques and owl shirts. On almost every visit to our house, she climbs up on a chair to stroke Ford, the stuffed horned owl on the fireplace mantle.

A few days after they discovered the identity of the chicken-killer, she and I walked hand in hand toward the coop to visit its one remaining (and lonely) inhabitant. As children do, she launched yet again into the horrible story.

“Owls used to be my favourite animal, you know, Nana,” she said, after the telling. “But I’ve now REMOVED them from my favourite list. Except, of course, my stuffies. Oh, and your dead owl. I still like him. Just not the real ones that fly and kill things. I hate them.”

I smiled. Of course she’d rather stick to safe owls. Beautiful, majestic, wise owls. Almost magical. In her innocence she believed they could do no harm. She preferred the dead owl on Nana’s mantle. Not his relatives, full of life and hunger, swooping to earth in darkness, extending wicked talons, killing other creatures. Even beloved pets. She could control those owls. Not the real ones. She preferred to ignore them completely.

Throughout history, countless people have professed great love for God. People who see him as a magnanimous Deity who always blesses, always prospers, always heals. But whenever the Creator of all (whose absolute right it is also to remove it all), causes or permits hardship and difficulty, or delivers justice to individuals or rebellious nations, so-called God-lovers abandon him in droves. Strike him off their favourite list.

Why does God allow excruciating, even horrific things? We make guesses, but only he really knows. And his reasons are so far beyond our human calculations, they make guessing futile, which makes trusting essential. Because of Jesus, I stand there.  

P.S. Our daughter nursed Julie back to health in the house. The hen has since rejoined a few new chickens in the now predator-proof coop.

He was a truly lovely bird, Liddell. And another lovely rooster has replaced him.

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