When I was young, our family would vacation in a cabin that was sort of in the woods but about one half to a mile inland off the coast in northern California. It was the closest to God’s creation we had been, coming from the big city; and we all liked it very much.
My brother and I had wrist rockets, which are glorified sling shots; and we would try to hit things with rocks. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to try to shoot at live things; and many times I tried.
Well, one day the rock I used hit its mark, and over the branch the little bird went. Success!! I told my dad, and he graciously went hacking through the shrubbery that was in the way of getting my prize, including through poison oak, to which he is susceptible. He was able to retrieve the bird, and he handed me my trophy.
There I held it in my tiny hands, it looking very small even there. I had hit it right upside the head in the eye. I looked at the little, lifeless bird, the life which I had taken of it, and was devastated. I felt so badly for what I had done; and I did the only thing I knew to do, and that was dig a little, round grave; bury it; border it with small rocks; and make and place a cross at the top.
Now, as a child of Adam, born with a desperately wicked heart (Jer 17:9), soon after in life that kind of sentiment didn’t last long, and I was then shooting at live things again for “fun” (but that’s a whole different area of discussion). Obviously though, this moment with the little bird left something of a lasting impression, because I still remember it pretty clearly today, and that was probably 30-35 years ago.
We had pets as we grew up in life, and I always at least felt some sort of very sentimental attachment to them. However, it wasn’t until we moved out here into the country surrounded by animals, domestic and wild, that I didn’t get to have revealed to me an area of sin in my life in relation to them.
When you’re around lots of creation all of the time, like we are out here, you eventually face the inevitable about all living things: death. I have discovered that I don’t like death; I like life. I like to watch all of the living, crawling things do what they were created to do. I like watching their behaviors so I can learn about God and His ways. Life in this temporal time reminds me of the eternal life found only in Christ Jesus. And in what we have learned over the past several years, death reminds me of sin (as it should). But often a “like” for something can turn inordinate; and when it becomes that, it has turned into idolatry; and if I’m doing that, I have then become an idolater, and thusly a person whom as Christians we should patently know God is against.
When we moved here, we brought with us our two pet rabbits and two pet fish. Since, they have all died; but the first rabbit did so very suddenly. I “took it very hard”, which means I was way overly emotional about it. Also, I relayed in my last “Digest” my reaction to when Russell our rooster was killed. I believe some of my reaction was based on my over-affections for him. God though, in His graces and mercies, through these episodes and teachings, had begun to show me there was a definite problem with this perspective towards His creation; and He placed on my heart that I needed to start to view these things differently, and that I needed to begin to ask Him to help me have a proper perspective toward these things. And so, I did.
Over time now, I am thankful that God has graciously started to change my heart condition and my perspective in these areas. When we lost our last pet rabbit, the effect on me wasn’t nearly what it was before (although I probably should have put her down some time before she died, but that goes to show I still need more work). Also, we have been around the death of our chickens, chicks, piglets, a goat, etc., which has allowed me to practice keeping a proper perspective.
Further, we have been around the butchering of animals here, including chickens, a pig and a goat. At first, it was a little difficult to watch, but with a graciously granted change in perspective, I began to understand the reasons for this and that this is really God’s provisioning to us. Also, in analyzing all of this, I think I have a tendency to project myself onto the animal; and since I wouldn’t want to have my head chopped off or feel that pain, I didn’t want its head to be or it to feel pain. But in reality, that’s how we eat; and we try to kill the animal as quickly as possible. Interestingly too to me, once you get past the skinning and butchering process, you are left with what looks like the packaged item you would buy in the store, and it then seems a little more “normal.” We have all been sheltered from the difficulties in preparing our own food, which probably has fed society’s untempered love affair with animals.
In another way, God has continued to help change this area for me with what might be called the “critters” on the land that run around and kill our animals or eat our food. I have found that once the cute, little, fuzzy rabbit who was running around your land last year starts eating your vegetable garden this year, it’s not so cute anymore; and so, without remorse, I have sent several of them to the compost pile. I have learned that God has placed these things on earth for man. They are for our use (not abuse) and for us to have dominion over (Gen 1:28), and actually keeping this in mind has helped me when having to kill these animals.
I still have emotions when it comes to God’s creatures around us: I will be sad the day Gary is gone; many of the animals have personalities, which make them more endearing; there seems to be a trust that can develop that comes from an animal after caring for it over time, and butchering it almost seems like having to break that trust; I do feel badly after shooting animals because it still is difficult to take the life out of a living creature, one to which God had given life; I try not to step on ants inadvertently if they’re not doing something destructive; and other similar things; and these may still not be fully the way I should perceive them; but I do pray the Lord continue to move me to repentance from the way I idolized His creation into maintaining a proper view on it and practicing a proper life within its realms according to His order in it.
For more on God’s order for the world and especially His people, listen to these:
Order, Part 1
Order, Part 2
Order, Part 3
Order, Part 4
Order, Part 5