Saturday, May 31, 2008

Of God and cows...

There are times when we can do all that a fellow creature needs only if he will trust us. In getting a dog out of a trap, in extracting a thorn from a child's finger, in teaching a boy to swim or rescuing one who can't, in getting a frightened beginner over a nasty place on a mountain, the one fatal obstacle may be their distrust. We are asking them… to accept apparent impossibilities: that moving the paw farther back into the trap is the way to get it out - that hurting the finger very much more will stop the finger hurting - that water which is obviously permeable will resist and support the body - that holding onto the only support within reach is not the way to avoid sinking - that to go higher and onto a more exposed ledge is the way not to fall...

We are to God, always, as that dog or child or bather or mountain climber was to us, only very much more so... If human life is in fact ordered by a beneficent being whose knowledge of our real needs and of the way in which they can be satisfied infinitely exceeds our own, we must expect a priori that His operations will often appear to us far from being beneficent and far from wise...

You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence... the assent, of necessity, moves us from the logic of speculative thought into what might perhaps be called the logic of personal relations.

CS Lewis, from The World's Last Night and Other Essays, with thanks to Abbot Joseph

Abbot Joseph's post bears reading in its entirety, for its own sake. I have just borrowed his CS Lewis quote because it says so well what I was trying to say in my own post Despised and Rejected.

I well remember trimming cows' feet. Now, cows hate to have their feet trimmed. I think they have all the emotions of a child who loathes and fears the dentist's chair, suddenly confronted with the prospect of root canal treatment. Yet without regular trimming, cows' feet become overgrown, their gait unbalanced, and eventually they become lame, suffering great pain from solar ulcers, and untold distress, since as ruminants their whole life depends on being able to stand up, walk around, and graze.

How to explain that to cows? Well, you can't. They don't understand English (though they understand very well the tone in which it is spoken) and they have no concept, as far as I've ever been able to discover, of preventive medicine. The only answer is to develop a relationship with cows such that they trust you, and will, if reluctantly, enter the horrible mechanical steel enclosure of the foot-trimming crush, and stand, if not still, at least still enough not to hurt either themselves or the person trying to trim their feet. Then, it all becomes possible. The overgrown horn can be removed, the two claws levelled and smoothed, the proximal edges dished out to relieve pressure, and the whole foot tidied and neatly pared to the proper shape it should have.

I used to love foot trimming. Not because the cows disliked it - far from it, it made my heart ache to see their fear - but because I loved to watch them walk away with a spring in their step, obviously relishing the pleasure of walking securely, without pain or discomfort.

I sometimes think I have an inkling how God must feel, watching us do everything we can to avoid the treatment he knows will heal our broken hearts. We cannot understand the logic behind the process, any more than the poor cows can understand how being confined and manhandled, and cut about with sharp steel, can prevent their becoming lame. Our only hope is the same as the cows' - to trust the one we know, from the nature of our relationship with him, wants only to heal us, help us, love us whole again.


Sue said...

You're such a sweet man, Mike. Yes, I agree, sometimes I feel I have an inkling of how he feels too. Sometimes I get inklings of amusement mixed in with my bigger temper tantrums, but it must be terribly paining to Love to watch their children in so much pain.

But imagine God's joy watching us frolicking after our release from our own crushes :)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I know how the cow must feel.