Have I told you about my son’s pigs?
For the second year, my son has chosen as an extra-curricular activity pigs. Yes, live, eating, drinking, pooping, smelly pigs.
Cole decided to join Future Farmers of America (FFA) last year, and he is absolutely excelling! He shows pigs. He judges livestock. And he is surrounded by some amazing people—other students and their families. He is gaining leadership experience, learning responsibility, and growing immensely.
But it comes at a cost.
Did I mention that pigs are smelly? The barn where he keeps his pigs is absolutely horrendous. I might have been caught plugging my nose as I walked into one of his shows…and been the subject of many jokes thereafter. Every time you walk in the barn, you have to shower and wash your clothes. Doesn’t matter if you were in there 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Your clothes and hair simply absorb the smell. No escape. It follows you. In your car. In your room. Ugh!
Today, I went to the final show of the season. It was held at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, and kids gathered from around the state. They came with their pig feed and water troughs, their whips and their shavings. More kids and pigs (and sheep, goats, and cattle) than you can imagine!
These kids have spent the last five months feeding their pigs. They’ve cleaned the pens. They’ve taught the pigs to walk just right, heads held high to flatten out their backs. They’ve clipped their pigs. They’ve weighed their pigs. They’ve worked to put weight on their pigs and they’ve worked to take the weight off their pigs. They’ve learned what the judges look for in a show pig.
And they’ve loved their pigs. Cole’s pigs were so tiny when he got them in November. So cute! We’ve watched as they’ve grown into powerful animals, yet with a gentle spirit.
So today, Cole walked his pig to the ring, eagerly anticipating the judge’s critique. Would he be sifted (sent away without winning) or would he be penned (place in his class)?
His pig has been fed plenty in the last few weeks. He had to gain 25 pounds to make the 230 pound minimum weight. This morning, he weighed in at exactly 230 pounds! One hurdle crossed.
He entered the first ring where a judge sent him directly to the big ring! No sifting! He entered the second ring, marching his pig expertly in front of the judge. The judge was impressed and sent him to a pen!
In the end, Cole placed 7th in his class. Not bad when you consider the number of pigs he was competing against.
And then, it was over.
You see, at the end of the season, you sell your pig that you have cared for so carefully. The pig that you have poured your heart and soul into. The pig that you have loved.
After you show your pig the final time, you walk your pig through the pens, down the long, lonely aisle where a truck waits. The pig that you’ve poured so much time and energy into is loaded onto a truck and driven away…to his death.
For many of us, the walk is hard. The entire concept of raising a pig to send him to his death is more than I personally can handle. But walking him for the final time? Knowing you are sending him away forever? Knowing the ultimate outcome?
Some of the pigs almost seem to sense what’s happening. They don’t want to walk down that long, lonely aisle, through that final door. They get upset, cry out, try to run the opposite direction. They don’t want to give their all.
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:36-38
As I reflected on the morning, my mind flashed to the crucifixion. Maybe in some small way, I felt what God Himself felt as He sent His very own son on that long walk. You see, He poured His everything into His son. He loved Him and cared for Him.
And yet, He knew from the very beginning the final outcome. He knew from the beginning that Jesus would walk that long, lonely, final walk. He knew that Jesus’ final destination was death, death on a cross.
And Jesus? Just as those pigs seemed to sense what was happening, Jesus was very well aware what was on the other side of the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew the final outcome would involve excruciating pain and incredible suffering. He knew death was his final destination.
His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death.
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:35-36
Just as those pigs fought against walking through the final door, Jesus cried out to escape the suffering. If at all possible. Just hold me close. Keep me from walking these final steps. Take this cup from me.
Yet, He chose to go through the door. He chose to be obedient to His Father, even to death on a cross. He chose to take that long, final walk.
It was a choice He made for me. It was a choice He made for you. It was a choice He made because His love for us, His desire to walk in complete obedience to the Father, was greater—oh, so much greater—than His desire to avoid the pain and the suffering.
And so He walked through that final door, straight into the arms of death.
As we know, death didn’t get the final word when Christ went to the cross. Instead, He claimed the victory when He walked out of that tomb, forever winning the war over death and giving us the hope of eternal life. Oh, what a Savior!
Father, thank you for showing me in some very small way what you went through when you sent your Son, your beloved Son, to earth to die for me, for my sins. I am forever humbled and grateful for the gift, for the incredible sacrifice given for me on that cross. May I never take for granted what you went through. Thank you for claiming victory over death, for promising eternal life, forgiveness of sins. Thank you for giving your all. May I always live in such a way that reflects my gratitude for the incredible sacrifice given all those years ago.