“And now you know…the rest of the story.”
I remember listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. This is before XM radio or having access to unlimited music on your phones. I loved how he took a piece of information we as listeners had heard before and then gave us a behind the scenes look at whatever he was talking about. He always ended the segment with those same words.
We got Grey his first show pig. Just when yall thought I couldn’t play up this whole town-come-to-country thing anymore…
But we have gleaned so much from the time we’ve spent preparing the pen, picking out the perfect pig, and training him for his upcoming performance. Who knew the little oinkers were so smart?
There’s just one minor detail. Grey has never been to a hog show. He truly has no concept of what a “show pig” even is. He’s listened to Ben and me talk about it, and he’s seen pictures of his late great grandfather winning a show a few decades ago. He’s been around older kids who have talked about their experiences showing livestock. But he has no real context for what all the hoopla is about.
Haven’t you felt like that before? Kinda like an outsider. Maybe listening to Christian music in someone’s car and not knowing the lyrics. Maybe watching others kneel at the altar and wondering what they are doing. Perhaps looking at your neighbor lifting their hands during the praise and worship. Or even being startled when someone shouted “Amen!” during the message from the back pew. You listened and watched all of these things happening to those around you, but you were not personally moved to do any of those things, or really understood why they were happening.
I’m sure it sparked your curiosity, if not for freaking you out a bit. *Cue the snake handling jokes*
I’ve been thinking that’s a lot of how faith can be at times. You know you’re doing the things you’re supposed to. You’re praying like you should and listening to the right music. But nothing has happened to you yet. You’re like Grey, building the pen for a pig you can’t even conceive of.
I love to imagine God doing ordinary things like that. Yall remember Jesus was a carpenter with his dad. So, like Grey, I bet he helped Joseph hang a few boards, not really being able to see the end product in the midst of swinging hammers and swatting gnats. Joseph just reminding Jesus to mind his fingers when forging a footer.
I’m reminded of the story of God sorting the weeds from the wheat. When we went to pick out our new porker, there were lots of others in the barn. Gilts and barrows, different colors, and various temperaments. Harlow was put off by all of the “hoinking” they were doing. I know a lot of people who sit around hoinking all day. But as we sorted through, looking for the very best qualities in each one, weighing the pros and cons, I couldn’t help but think about how thankful I am that God doesn’t size me up in this way.
Lawd, if He had a rubric that deducted points for the times we size ourselves up against filtered images, wrote off those we think are less than, or pushed aside those who can’t help us win the prize, we’d be first in line to the sl…wherever pigs go before we wind up with bacon beside our biscuits.
God, thank you for your mercy and grace.
From where I’m sitting (back at my kitchen counter), it’s easy to trace God’s goodness and see that
even especially when we can’t see it, He’s working.
(You never stop, never stop working… ok, just had to round out that refrain).
It’s just that He rarely works on our timeline. So in that in between state, we just resort back to all of the fickle folks we read about in basically every book of the Bible who begin to question God and take matters into their own hands. Each time, God reminds them again and again that He is working things out; we just can’t possibly comprehend it when we’re in the middle.
So, we keep building the pens. We keep putting in the time. We keep feeding up our pigs and walking them, without knowing what we’re really headed for.
Maybe we should be more like Hogwash, the poetic name Grey selected for his swine. This pig’s got it made in the shade, which is really important in south GA when the thermometer gives up after 100 and the humidity offers you the soak of a pool without the cannonballs. Hogwash spends his days eating on a routine schedule, lazing beneath his fan and mister, and looking forward to the kids coming to play with him in the afternoons.
That’s how I want to see God. Knowing that I am cared for and that I am in community with him. That my needs are met and there is a level of contentment that allows for peace and security. Maybe that’s what people refer to as being “on the mountaintop” as it alludes to Moses’ time on the literal top of a mountain where he met God face-to-face.
But don’t forget that Hogwash cannot just stay in his pen. He has to get out and work his, er, butt off. Not all of it, as he will score points based on his figure. But it takes work to learn to walk the way you’re instructed. You see where I’m going with this.
It’s easier for us not to put in the work. When we’re tired, our prayer and devotion time is the first thing to go if it means catching a few more ZZ’s. We definitely don’t want to see God coming at us with the board that makes it impossible to continue on the path we are headed. And, maybe this is just me, but I don’t love getting sweaty and having to brush bahia grass seeds from my knees.
That’s what it takes. No, not to be a winning show pig. But to discipline ourselves in following Christ. To really learn what the Word says and figure out how to pray real prayers. To find our place in the body of Christ.
In a sense, though, all this training will prep us for the show. We’re certainly not out to win any religious superlatives, but wouldn’t it be cool if, while parading around with all the other hoinkers, those in the arena could tell there’s just something different about us? That the way we carry ourselves has been beaten into us, not by a stick, but by working our spiritual muscles to cultivate that relationship with Christ?
That’s what I told Grey as we drove to his new school for the first day. We don’t want to always blend in and do what everyone else is doing. We prayed that Grey would be a light to those around him and that he would see ways he could be a friend to others in his new class. We asked that he would be obedient to his teacher in the way that we have been instructed.
Keep putting in the work, yall. It gets tiring, and I know it’s tempting to say this thing just isn’t working for you. But there’s more to the story. And when you get a taste of the real Jesus, not the one sipping coffee in a café somewhere, but the one who gets down in the mud with you and then scrubs you down with refreshing water, you won’t want to stay in the midst of the mist and mortals.
You’ll want to step boldly into the arena, knowing your Provider is leading you where you need to go. You’ll remember your training and understand the things that once seemed foreign to you.
What God begins in you, He will see to completion. The Holy Spirit in you will remind you of all the things you worked to learn and know about God and how He loves you. You’ll pray bold prayers and not be led astray by those around you.
Maybe you’re just getting started with your training and each time you try to come to the cross, you get sidetracked or lose interest.
Maybe you’ve been at it for a while, but haven’t fully surrendered it all to Jesus.
Or maybe, He’s closer than a brother and the very breath you breathe.
It’s worth it. Your setback is a setup for what’s next. The things that felt like they were holding you back or were not in your plan will not last.
There’s a grave that holds no body. It seemed like all was lost and that the jig was up. But the story wasn’t over.
When you get there, and see how God never stopped moving, you’ll look around and tell others of how, though we were lost and couldn’t save ourselves, we were given another chance.
Then, we too will say, “And now you know…the rest of the story.”
Matthew 13:30 “Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
Proverbs 18:24 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”