Be Free

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Our calf, Emma, born Monday March 30th, died yesterday April 7th. I spent the week listening and watching to see what the LORD would do and what He wanted me to learn from this experience. He always wants me to pay close attention; some things keep me more attentive than others. He knows me. Problems with the animals get points across to me better than any other means. Still, trying to articulate all that I've realized this week is daunting.

Kevin's summary is simpler than mine, so, I give his first. Death is because of the fall.

The calf, Emma, looked fine when she was born. Her mother is a veteran cow; she knows her job and does it well. For some reason, this calf just couldn't figure out how to 'take hold'. She got to the right area to nurse; she punched and suckled all over the bag; but, she just didn't take the teat in her mouth. We saw her going through the motions (from a distance) and thought she was nursing. Because we are gone all the next day we didn't realize until the end of the second day that she wasn't actually connecting with the flow. At that point we put her and her mom in the round pen so that they would have uninterrupted time together to solve the problem. Both mom and calf seemed committed to each other. The cow, Blessing, stood patiently while her daughter prodded and punched. When I described this to co-workers and family, they all asked, "is she blind?" No, not in the physical sense. She could definitely see. But, in the spiritual sense (we're using this as an analogy; I know the calf had no spiritual sight), she was clueless. She was close to her salvation to smell it, but did not grasp it.

On the third evening we realized she still hadn't been nursing. Kevin made a hasty trip to Taylor to get colostrium and a bottle. We mixed it and took it over to Emma. She acted like it tasted terrible. We were supposed to get almost 2 quarts of it into her and all she would take was about 3 ounces. We knew then that unless the LORD showed her HOW to avail herself of the sustenance she needed to thrive, she would die.

The next day we tried again to get her to take nourishment from the bottle. She drank over a quart. What was interesting though, was that she kept taking breaks and going back to her mom to poke around some more. She seemed to associate the milk in the bottle with her mom, but she didn't make the connection with the nipple. The next morning she didn't want any, but that evening she emptied the bottle. The following morning, Sunday, Kevin had to take his son to the airport. I was apprehensive about trying to get Emma up and feed her by myself. Calves have to be standing up to eat. I prayed specifically about this and when I went over to the roundpen, Emma was already standing! I was relieved by that, and I managed to get the bottle in position and pry open her mouth, but she would only take a few swallows. She ate almost nothing at all. That evening she ate again, but in the morning she wouldn't. That evening she downed a full bottle; but that was the last time she ate. She lay down in a makeshift shelter Kevin created for her (with a tarp). I put hay up against her for warmth (and went back later and put a sweater over her). She survived that night and all of the next day and another night (we had frost). But by then she couldn't stand and when we helped her stand she wouldn't eat. Yesterday afternoon she was dead.

I was grateful that we did realize there was a problem, that we took measures to solve it, that we persevered even when we thought it was hopeless, that we looked to the LORD all the way through for what was ultimately best for all concerned. I can think of reasons why this is best: it is now, after the fact, easier on Blessing; this frees us up for many other commitments we have ahead; Emma herself is spared suffering from other health problems since calves which do not get colostrium in the first 3 days (we learned this) will have health problems and frequently don't survive, and it saved us more needless expense, lost sleep, emotional distress...

Even so, it was hard to see an animal hang on like that but stop short of grasping the real source of nourishment. Her little frail body survived being rained on (that storm surprised us), a hot day (without fluids in her), a frosty night (with so little flesh on her to generate heat...but, right by her all the time was her savior, her mom, waiting to meet her needs. But, Emma just didn't grab hold. She rubbed her nose raw butting into the bag, but never took hold of the teat. I can't explain this missing the mark in cattleman's terms; it does happen. In Emma's case it was like she was declining to suck as she should; she wanted it to be some other way. She kept insisting that the means of nourishment be provided her way; she wanted it on a different level and easier to access. Did you realize (I hadn't) that a calf, a kid, a fawn, a lamb, has to pretty much get DOWN ON THEIR KNEES initially to grab hold of the teat? It isn't at the level you'd expect it to be; it is lower. It is inconvenient. If they don't stoop or bow down, they don't "get it". Once they have learned this, though, they can grab it and then stand up and it comes up to a more comfortable level for them (once they have it in their mouth).

In the analogy I've drawn, there are people around us everywhere who are right at the door to salvation, but they keep looking for another way in. It is even more distressing than watching our little Emma slowly decline into a helpless heap; these people are suffering, blundering, shivering, but they don't want to enter in His way.

If I had time, but I don't, I'd find better words to describe what I've seen, but I think you get the gist.

Poor Emma.

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