I’ve written before about my hatred for goats, but somehow this year, it seems appropriate to revisit that dislike.
No Thank You
I hated goats. Dorothy hated being milked.
She was an ugly brown thing, clumsy and dumb, the recipient of my deepest scorn.
It was still pitch dark and the ground was frozen. Life is a series of progressions from childhood to maturity, much like our spiritual growth.
When both my parents caught a flu bug, chores fell on me. I had to feed and milk Dorthy. I was mortified to be keeper of the goats.
Have I mentioned I hate goats?
Temperatures plummeted below zero. In the black of early morning, I pulled a woolen scarf close to my neck, a tin bucket swung from my gloved hand and the icy breath of winter chased me to the barn. I fumbled for the light. It flooded the shed. With that hair prickling feeling, I looked back at the house. It seemed far away.
Through the dark piece of pasture I chased Dorthy back and forth. When I finally battled her to the stall and sat down to milk, she went down like air out of a balloon. I pulled at her collar and up she labored. I reached for her udder and down she went.
“Stupid goat,” I muttered.
I shoved, begged and cajoled.
“Oh, no you don’t,” I yanked her collar. Up she came.
Squirts of goat milk landed in the pail, freezing almost at once. Down she went again.
Frozen to the bone and mad to a frenzy I kicked that old goat’s flank and milked what I could while she posed nonchalant against the frozen ground.
Light made the sky gray as I tramped back with frozen milk and hurt pride. Under a hot shower, tears and shivers washed away. I thought about the injustices I had to face, all so unfair. Angry at the goats, the winter and at my mom, my week unfolded.
Thankfulness has little to do with liking things.
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV).
My mom was like Proverbs 31 on legs. She never complained. She rose when it was dark and milked goats. She didn’t even like milk.
About the third day, I began to feel guilty. Mom, even in her sickness was getting the brunt of my unhappiness and my attitude stunk even after my shower.
I got a hammer and some nails and pounded a hook to fasten Dorothy’s collar. If she attempted to lie down, she would choke. I smiled at the thought.
Letting go slightly to my embarrassing secret, I recounted my woes to my best friend. Seeing it through her eyes, we laughed until our stomachs ached. Something inside softened.
Each day before school, the hot steamy shower washed away the cold, the smell, and a little bit of bitterness. I no longer returned from each milking session with tears.
Dorothy and I understood one another. She hated being milked, I hated milking.
About halfway through my week of the goats, I opened my mouth to the streaming hot shower, lifted my face and let the water run in and out my mouth.
“I can’t wait till Mom is better so she can do the morning milking again.” I said out loud.
In the pages of every childhood some hold distinction. Once turned they can’t be retraced. This was my page.
I leaned my forehead against the tiled shower wall and my eyes suddenly opened to all the cold dark mornings my mother faced without complaint or acknowledgment. It had never really occurred to me that what I was doing for one week, she had been doing all along.
I never once questioned if she liked goats.
I stood stark still and listened to the voice of my own words. Years of unsung mothering flashed before me. She nursed me when I was sick. She woke early to fix breakfast. She washed, ironed, cleaned, and milked those stupid barnyard animals.
My conscious spoke into the sound of my own words with new and strange maturity.
“I will finish out my week without complaining. I will be helpful around the house so mom can get better. And I will thank her for all the times she has gotten up in the dark and milked.”
God uses the mundane, even distasteful things of life to mature us to deeper truth.
Today as I look back on the “Week of the Goat” tenderness fills my heart.
Honestly, I’m not sure I will look back at this year with the same tenderness, and I know I’m not alone in seeing it as a whole-long-difficult-want-it-to-end year.
It’s time to lift our faces, open our eyes and see what God has done. It’s time to count our blessings and name them one by one.
It’s time to be thankful, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.