When I was a little girl, I went to visit my aunt and uncle’s farm. Theirs was one of the largest pig farms in the area. They took me to the nursery area so that I could see all the piglets with their moms. When you have a barn full of nursing sows – it is quite an exciting place for a little girl! Piglets squeal at the littlest things, so the barn was very full of their cries as we walked through. We had to be careful not to get too close, however, because the sows were very protective of their litters and they were far more agile than their hefty size would indicate. As we passed through the barn, I remember my cousin sweeping up the body of a tiny piglet that didn’t survive its first week. It made me incredibly sad to see and I couldn’t understand how my cousin wasn’t more affected by it. In my childlike thoughts, I felt indignant that he didn’t care as much for that piglet as I did.
Of course, now I understand that wasn’t the case at all. Those who grow up and work on farms have a better understanding of the gift of life than most. It wasn’t that my cousin was callous toward the small animal; it was that I had taken life for granted. I felt that life was a given. I had no relationship with that pig, but seeing it dead disturbed my worldview of life. My cousin and his family, however, knew the emotional and financial costs of death. They knew the cycle of life and appreciated it far more than I did. If you never deal with death, it is hard to appreciate life.
When you deal with livestock giving birth hundreds (thousands) of times over the years, you appreciate the complex gift of life. When you consider that a piglet can weigh three pounds at birth to a sow that could weigh 500-600 pounds, and be part of a litter of 10-12 piglets, it becomes amazing to see that the death rates aren’t higher. My cousin’s family knew firsthand the delicate balance of life. They had witnessed many times over the fragile, resilient, ordinary, and miraculous nature
of life. And that was made possible because they had seen death many times over. That didn’t make them callous toward death; it made them appreciative of life.
Have you taken life for granted? When is the last time you gave thanks for your health or that of your loved ones? When did you last express gratitude to God for seeing the beauty of nature? When did you last pause and truly appreciate the many images of life you encounter every single day?
Gracious God, we thank You for the gift of life. Remind us to pause and take notice of life around us – the sounds and sights we encounter. Thank You for our friends and family because their lives have shaped our own. – Amen.
Rev. Wendy Lambert, Senior Executive Pastor