Archive for March, 2013

Slop the Hog

March 3, 2013

My grandfather was a dirt farmer. By that I mean that he owned a nice farm, but he farmed it like a poor man. I have some memories of being with him as he farmed,  and the memory that sticks with me the most is the pigsty.  I can still remember the sight of it, but even more I remember the smell. In later years, I found out that pigs are really clean animals. If you don’t believe it, then live in a small enclosed area where you have to sleep, eat, and go to bathroom all in the same place. Soon you will look and smell like a pig as well. I was also fascinated and disgusted to watch grandfather “slop the hogs.” I couldn’t believe what they were eating and even more how happy they seemed to have it. Seeing the disgust on my face, grandfather said, “Son, if you are hungry enough, you’ll eat anything.” I didn’t believe him then, but I believe him now.

There are so many things that we can say about the parable of the Prodigal Son. I have come to love this story and what I love most is the image of the Father. He waits with anticipation and longing for his lost son. Its the face of a compassionate, loving, and forgiving God who wants to embrace us and throw a party. With such an image, you would think that we all would be running home. What waits for us is not judgment or damnation. What waits for us is “home.” Remember, as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” So why aren’t we all running home?

The answer is plain – as bad as it is, we have grown accustom to the pig sty. We don’t notice the smell anymore and the food seems tasty enough. There is plenty of slop to eat and someone or something makes sure that I have plenty of it. Grandfather was right. You will eat most anything if you are hungry enough and frankly, we are starving.

I am quite aware of the difference between the Prodigal and myself. He wallowed in the sty of his wasteful life but left it. I wallow in mine and stay in it. The Lord sent a famine and the Prodigal knew his hunger and left. I too have know famines in my life, but I stay in the sty.  He remembered that in his Father’s house where there was a banquet waiting for him.  I have forgotten how it is in my Father’s house. The Prodigal remembered that the hired servants ate better than he did. All around me, I have images of those servants who now sit at the banquet table, but I am slow to join them.  Even though he feared how he would be received, he was ready. Not only would he say he was sorry, but he would ask to be made a servant. I have some regrets about being in the sty, but repentance is not with me.

This idea of a  famine and its effect on the Prodigal reminds me of a story. The preacher got a phone call and was told to hurry to this farm house. The father had been bitten by a poisonous snake, and they feared he would die. The doctor was there, but things looked bad. So, as the preacher headed that way, he thought how ironic it was that they called him since they had not been to church in many years. As he entered the house, they took him to the stricken man. “Reverend, I know that we have not been to church in many years. So, I promise now, that if God will let me live, me and my family will be in church every time the door opens. And we will support it with regular giving.  Will you pray for me, preacher?” The minister began to pray, “Lord, you know this man and his family. They have not been to your house in many years. Now, he has been bitten and fears death,  and promises to be faithful in his attendance and support. So, Lord,  I ask is that you send more snakes!”

Should I pray for more famines?  Famines should bring repentance, but so far famines have not compelled me to  leave the sty. I think its better to play safe and stay where I am. It might be better in my Father’s house, but I fear the journey.  I may be a foolish prisoner in my sty, but  I am safe here. The road looks long and difficult and I am not ready to say that I am sorry for my life.  Here, there is pleasure and entertainment and  diversion, and  lots of it. I can give free reign to my passions and devour all that is given to me. Those who supply me seemed pleased with my attitude and encourage me to eat more. However, the more I eat, the hungrier I become.

Those who feed me know I am being prepared for the slaughter. My only hope is to wake up and realize the gravity of my situation. I need to smell the smell and see the dirt and remember how much better it is in my Father’s house. If I just begin that journey, if I just take the first step, the Father will come running to me and he will call me son!  He will not smell the smell or notice the dirt.

I should begin the journey, but wait, its time to slop the hog. I wonder what they are serving today?