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
Your post brings back memories for me. I grew up with my dad bieng a trapper. I saw many an animal killed and skinned. I used to help my dad skin and stretch out the fur. I’ve killed and cleaned chickens a few years back so that might not be to difficult… I think! That was then. Should be interesting! I appreciate your honesty and all that you post. I have learned alot and continue to grow as I read. Thankyou
Great post David. We look forward to you getting “hands on” with all of the butchering this fall!
Growing up on a dairy farm, we had chickens that were killed by cutting off the head; and though I was quite young, I remember everyone, including myself, giggling at the chickens trotting across the grass with their heads cut off. Other than those, most of the killing/butchering was done by others as Dad sold his beef cattle and had some sent to the butcher (though I don’t honestly know who “killed” those that ended up in our freezer.) Was too young to remember, I guess. Karen probably remembers better. Other than that we had horses, occasionally pigs, etc. Oh yes, the other animal I saw butchered by Dad every year and helped skin was white-tailed deer. But when older, for the reasons you mentioned, I couldn’t picture myself actually shooting one. Now, though, I think I’d enjoy hunting them and turkey too, for instance!
Thanks for your honesty and for sharing this “process” and the sin that lies in “sympathizing” with animals that God gave us to dominate and for our provision.
This post is so timely for me! My husband and I were just discussing how much we need to cull out some of our roosters. They are starting to get aggressive, so we finally need to do what we have been putting off! This will be our first time butchering anything, so we are intimidated by the whole task, but after reading your post we can go about it with an entirely better attitude and understanding!
Your blog is so educational…thanks for all the great info and sharing your experiences with all of us out here in blogland!
Please don't forget Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." I think you're misinterpreting what God intended. Yes, we certainly have dominion over animals, but we are their Shepherds, and Shepherds care for their flock, so to have compassion for animals is to honor God since that is what He intended of us. After all, as we all know, He created these animals, and while they are for our benefit, in no way did God ever instruct for us to inflict unnecessary pain on them for our pleasure. One of the people who commented on this post said she would "enjoy" killing them… this is where ungodly character is present.
First, a lot of this blog is about trying to properly husband animals. However, often that husbanding is for the purpose of them being used as meat, which is lawful in the Bible (Gen 9:3; Acts 10:12-13) and exampled throughout as such. It is not "ungodly" to enjoy participating in what God has commanded as lawful, assuming it's done lawfully. The commenter in no way intimated that what she was doing was not done lawfully (such as inflicting pain for pleasure on animals), or enjoying killing (she didn't say that), nor have we in this blog; and in fact, I stated specifically in the post that animals are not for abuse.
In the Old Testament, the lamb was sacrificed as atonement for sin, which was the foreshadow of Christ being the sacrificial lamb. But here is what the Bible say about God in the sacrificing of His Son: Isaiah 53:10 – "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise [in this case, that he be killed] him [Christ]; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." Would you cast the same aspersion on God that you did on the commenter?
The point of my post was that it is improper and sinful to have an inordinate affection for God's creatures to where we don't do what we should do with them — in our case, eat them for meat.