Lately, rather than buy the pre-cut, deboned, and deskinned chicken that I came to love in my early 20s, I have started buying whole chickens at the farmers market and cooking them in the crock pot, using as much as possible of the bird. The large pieces of white meat are usually eaten plain, the smaller pieces of white meat find their way into a salad, and the dark meat is usually turned into soup.
My favorite part of the chicken, though, is the stock that is created when the fat, marrow and juices of the chicken cook down with a potpourri of herbs and spices into a rich liquid that can be frozen and used later. Tonight, the stock from my last chicken is quietly bubbling in a pan filled with rice and beans on the stove.
Cooking chicken this way is not for the faint of heart, as you really have to get into the meat elbows deep in order to use everything as thoroughly as possible. If you asked your grandmothers, most of them know what the inside of a chicken looks like. For most of the rest of us, though, especially those born in the last three or four decades, we haven’t seen a chicken like that because we haven’t been hungry enough.
The general fullness of my life makes truly hungering and thirsting after Jesus a bit of an empty metaphor at times. I am especially out of touch when I read of David’s desperate longings from one of his wilderness Psalms, like Psalm 63.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You.
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
I couldn’t help thinking of my chicken stock thick with fat and marrow as I read those last two lines. But I also thought of a better description of this type of satisfaction that I had just read earlier today.
I am in the middle of Greg Mortenson’s second book, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Greg Mortenson is the mountain-climber turned humitarian who has labored tirelessly to raise money and arrange for schools to be built up in the remotest parts of the Himalayas.
Early in Stones into Schools, he recounts a meal he shared with men from two different tribes. In a land where food is scarce, especially during the harsh winters that are common in the area where heaven and the mountains meet, these men know what it means to be satisfied with marrow and fatness.
Most of the mutton had been boiled in a large pot, although a small portion had been fried into kebabs in a pan. The real delicacy, however, was the dumba, the blubberlike fat from the animals tail and its hind end. This was placed on a platter in the center of the room where it sat quivering like a hunk of golden Jell-O.
The Kirghiz inhaled this feast with the harrowing relish of men who had been subsisting on rainwater and chewing tobacco. They scooped up fat with their fists, they stripped the meat from the bones with their riding knives, and they snapped the bones in half and sucked the marrow into their mouths with moist slurping sounds. Everything was consumed and when they were through, the men took their hands, which were now slathered in grease, and carefully smeared them over their faces, their hair, and their beards.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be that hungry physically, but oh, how I pray, that I would hunger after Jesus like these men and their mutton. That I would never be so satisfied in anything, anyone, but him.
And may this time in the wilderness help me long for him even more.