Her teeth came down hard. I felt a crack and knew my life would never be the same. Although the pain was severe, I held onto the prize: a stinky ball of rumen. (Okay…so maybe “my life would never be the same” is a bit dramatic…but now I have intimate knowledge of goat teeth anatomy when I hadn’t before).
I was victorious in the battle of goat rumen. All you goat dairy farmers know what unhealthy rumen means. For all you normal people, let me explain:
Goats are ruminants. Like all ruminants (cows, sheep, rabbits etc.) goats rely on a healthy microbial environment in their gut to properly digest food. Healthy microbes equals healthy animal. Sick microbes equals sick animal.
I had a sick animal. A very sick goat named Godiva. The expression, “sick as a goat,” is illuminated when one actually has a sick goat. More often than not, when a farmer realizes a goat is sick, the poor goat is already dead. Regarding my Godiva, I knew I didn’t have much time.
Godiva is one of my nubian dairy goats. I love the breed’s elegant roman profiles, long pendulous ears, and God’s creativity in their color and coat patterns. I have been breeding for one especially rare pattern called “moon spots.” In my humble opinion, Jacob of the Bible had it right when he chose the goats with spots (Gen. 30:25-31:16). They are the most unique and lovely of all.
obsession admiration for spotted goats has grown as I have bred multiple generations. Since they are dairy goats, it is important for the farmer (me) to bond with the herd. My dairy girls know and trust me. Their exemplary behavior on the milk stand testifies to our relationship. Here, manners are crucial; no bucket kicking allowed! (Side note: the expression “don’t cry over spilled milk” undoubtedly was first uttered in a dairy barn. I empathize with both the dairy maid who lost her progress from one ill tempered hoof and with the cow…I breast fed 4 children and I certainly would be cheeky too).
My relationship with the herd and individual goats gives me deeper insight into our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:1-21). For most, His declaration elicits images of a bearded man carrying a lamb across his shoulders. True, Christ does “carry us through.” But this imagery implies He is only near in our most desperate times.
Truth is, our Good Shepherd is always near. God promises, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
A good shepherd continuously watches over the herd. Good shepherds, like Jesus, interact with their herd daily. They study them and pay attention to their needs. They know what feed to provide and when and how much. They notice when their animal loses condition as evidence of an underlying illness. After all, external cues signify internal happenings.
Just like with people, “what comes out” (Matthew 15:18) reflects what is in.
As children of God, He tells us to “meditate on scriptures day and night” (Joshua 1:8). Merriam Webster defines meditate as “reflect, ponder, muse, ruminate…” We must continuously digest, process, re-digest, re-process His word for our health! We must ruminate. Healthy thoughts equals healthy person. Sick thoughts equals sick person.
So why, at the beginning of this article, did I have my hand in a goat’s mouth? It wasn’t simply to steal her rumen. I was taking one goat’s healthy rumen and putting it in the mouth of the sick goat. Godiva was sick. She didn’t have healthy rumen. She needed the healthy microbes of a healthy herd mate to help heal her gut. A few healthy microbes is enough to establish an entire colony. Healthy microbes equals healthy animal.
Just like my goats in the herd, we need one another. We need other believers (a herd community of sorts) to feed us right thoughts grounded in the word of God. We will all experience sickness in our thoughts from time to time. But we have time to heal to our minds and establish colonies of good thought. We must exhort one another, encourage and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Godiva had to be built up and like people, she couldn’t do it on her own.
Sometimes, we don’t like hearing the truth. It stinks. It stinks like microbial ridden rumen. But the wise know His truth is beneficial. Truth saves. His word is rich and life giving! It is alive and it keeps us alive.
Godiva is alive today. She is on the mend from whatever ailed her. I still don’t know how she got sick in the first place. But I know, a thumb crunched in the mouth of a goat was worth it. Cheers to ruminates!