Cracking Shells


When I was a little girl, my grandparents had a magical family farm and my grandfather loved the earth, the dirt, the shade of a tree. He was and still is the soul I look to for guidance. He knew when to talk and when to listen. He was an angel on earth to guide and deliver messages of hope and love.

We had many animals on the farm. For the chickens, we had an egg room with an incubator. When it was chick season, I would go with my grandpa to the incubator to check on all the eggs. It was thrilling to see what hatched and what hadn’t. I knew that some eggs wouldn’t hatch, some chicks wouldn’t make it out of their shell, and that was deeply concerning to me as a little girl. I would sit and talk to the eggs, put them up to my face, snuggle them, and I would listen intently for any sign of life.

As chicks clawed their way out of their protective shell, they were moved from the incubator to the baby chick pen. After a certain amount of time, my grandfather would turn off the incubator. If the chicks hadn’t emerged from their shell, my grandpa would toss the eggs in the trash. I was continuously devastated, totally beside myself. Finally, I would have to leave the lifeless eggs and walk out. SO HARD, I had the most challenging time standing up, turning around, and walking out.

I would ask my grandpa, “Why can’t we just crack the egg open and get the baby bird out? Why can’t we help it?” My grandfather, always patient, loving, earnest, and honest, gave me the gift of a lifetime - he told me the truth. He said the eggs had been laid and cared for; we gave them heat, time, and a safe space to hatch. Then, it was their job to peck and claw to break their shell. So that, if they couldn’t crack the shell themselves, they wouldn’t survive in the world. He said it would be cruel.

Sometimes, we might sense a crack in our shells and be frightened that we’re broken. Instead of breaking free, we might frantically try to piece ourselves back together. Doesn’t this part fit here? Why isn’t this piece going back in there? Can I just pretend that this isn’t cracked and smile brighter, laugh harder?

The truth is the cracks are the grace. The tiny glimpse of light shines through to warm our souls and break down the rigid structures of our protective coating. We’ve all built shells to survive and maybe even thrive, but are they still serving us? Or are they holding us in place? Why are we so afraid of living a more meaningful life, breaking free, and spreading our wings?

Are we living our lives like partly-hatched chickens? What would life look like outside the shell? How can we flourish and grow? These are questions we must answer for ourselves. Only we truly know if we’re ready for a life without the limits of our cozy shell. And although I never stopped wanting to save every little bird, I realize I can’t go around cracking shells to bring people out of them! Because in the end, it’s an inside job.

What we CAN do for one another is listen and ask honest questions, then offer a safe space, empowering them to break free from the confinement of their shell to spread their wings.

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