Did I mention I've been farming goats the last four months?
It's a long story. It's not something I ever imagined I would experience. It's quite hilarious to me that these days in the barn are now a part of my life story.
Here's the gist: Every morning and every evening for the last four months, I have strapped on my overalls and rubber boots, grabbed a couple of jars and my milk bucket, and meandered down to the barn where sweet faces greet me. They actually angrily bleat at me most days - that is, they say "Maaaaaaa," - because finally I have come to relieve their hunger.
God's inspired writers filled the Bible with imagery of God as the Shepherd and His followers as His sheep. While we all love to quote Psalm 23, so few of us know what the author truly tried to convey.
Now before I get ahead of myself, I want to give a disclaimer: I am still very unqualified to actually consider myself a goat farmer. I have a whopping four months of experience, and it will probably be the only four months of my life that I care for goats. Nonetheless, spending every morning and evening with these creatures has given me a lot of perspective on how God must feel as He tries to lead us.
That being said, I hope you laugh, shake your head, and hold your heart out in the open as I share with you the ways these beloved goats reminded of myself and the way I have treated God throughout my life. And just a head's up: I broke all the writing rules and saved the best one for last. Stick with me!
To start, let's talk baby goats. Literal kids. So. Cute. Not that you need proof, but here's a picture of three of them snuggling.
These cuties had the softest fur and the sweetest little voices. After nursing on their mother for the appropriate amount of weeks, I began to bottle-feed the littles. Four of the five kids would come up to me, nudging me with their heads and hoofs as they eagerly awaited their turn to take the bottle. They would nibble at my hair and my shoelaces and fingers.
All except for one of them. She didn't have a name, so I started calling her "Little Girl" (I know, super creative). Little Girl would come up to the fence with her mom to greet me. She would stare me down and sniff around me. She knew I had what she wanted: Food.
I would squat to get closer to Little Girl, and she would hesitantly come near me. But. The second I moved closer to her, she would turn and bolt, and her baby goat voice would yell, "MAAAAAAAAAAAA." She never did learn to drink from the bottle.
Track with me here: How many times have you done the same thing to God? He draws near and you know He has exactly what you need. You think you are ready to finally jump into that relationship with Him, fully surrendering. Then He makes one small movement and suddenly you are the Little Kid running away screaming.
Moving on to Momma Goats:
Wendy (left) and Juniper (right).
Here they are.
Those little posers.
Wendy, Juniper, and I spent the most time together. One at a time they would come into the barn. I would lock their heads in, give them grain, brush their coats, wash their udders, and then milk them. As you can imagine, the three of us became pretty good friends.
Like any friends, we had our bad days. They would poop while I was milking them or they'd kick their feet and nearly tip my bucket. They always smelled bad, and they were quite impatient with me, especially at first.
Something crazy happened, though, as time went on. I truly began to care about these ladies. I wanted them to be clean and cared for. I wanted them to have plenty to eat and to stay dry and warm. I tended to their cuts and even pulled a thorn an inch deep out of Wendy's udder one morning. I gave them herbs and water. I often sang to them as I milked.
I reached a tipping point: I was not just the ranch hand anymore. I was the caretaker for these animals, and it mattered to me that they thrived. Even on the worst days, I still wanted to be sure they had everything they needed.
I imagine you know where I'm going with this, but God loves us like that. Even when we poop all over His plans or make progress only to have to start from the beginning, He comes back every day to make sure we are watched over and cared for, even when the care includes discipline.
Caring for these goats opened my eyes to how deeply God must care for us. If I could care so much for these animals that aren't even mine then He must have an unbelievably deep love for those of us He calls His own. His love covers us even on the days He must look at us and just scratch His head.
Here's what I mean: As spring came and the grass started to grow, I would *attempt* to lead these beauties over to the pasture where the water flowed and the grass grew. Since I did this every single day for weeks, I really thought they would get the hang of it. However, day after day I would take hay and water into the flourishing field expecting them to follow. Then I would turn to find them standing where I left them in the dead, dirt pasture where nothing grew. They would just look at me as if to say, "We appreciate that you want to provide rich nourishment and growth for us, but we're simply not interested. We prefer the dead, lifeless stage we're in right now."
When was the last time you turned God down when He tried to lead you into something exceedingly greater than what you currently had? Did you even realize that without Him you were orchestrating your own ruin?
I mentioned that I sang to the goats. I also talked with them. Goats are actually pretty smart creatures. I swear, they understand me when I talk to them.
Okay, maybe not, but listen: There would be days on end I'd talk to them and nothing would get through to them. Then a day would come when I would just ask them to do something and they would "Maaaa" in agreement and follow through with no argument. There were days I said, "Thank you," and they promptly replied, "Maaaaaa." I'm sure 98% of what I said did not get through to them, but those goats for sure speak 2% English.
This one really made me think about how God sees us. He's constantly with us, taking care of us, and guiding us, and 98% of the time we are screwing things up or blocking Him out. He's shaking His head and getting frustrated with why we still don't understand or just obey Him when seemingly out of nowhere we tap right in to what He's saying and doing. He must look at us so quizzically from time to time like, "Child, that's really the one you heard? Have you been listening all along?" Then we go back to our self-absorbed, unresponsive state. What activities, people, jobs, and other things do you have in your life that drown out the voice of God?
Over these last four months, I called the goats "mine." I would say to Caleb, "Be back in a bit. My goats need me." He would promptly reply, "They're not your goats," every time. There were days it felt like they were mine, but Caleb was right. In fact, just like in John 10:12-13, I am a hired hand who will flee soon to move on with other areas of my life. I will no longer care the same for the goats. I will not wake up wondering if they are thirsty and think about them when it starts to rain or snow. I will not feed them, hear their cries, or tend to their wound any longer. After time invested, I will still move on.
Praise God that He is the Good Shepherd who always walks with and cares for us; Praise God that He never moves on from us.