2017-07-28 / Chaplain's News

Know better than to shoot at a pig

CHAPLAIN’S CORNER
CHAPLAIN (COL.) MARK E. THOMPSON
Command Chaplain 7th Signal Command (T)

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed,” (James 5:16, The Message)

Jesse, a friend of a friend, grew up in Oklahoma in the early part of the 20th century. He and his family survived both the Great Depression and the horrors of the Dust Bowl, a multi-year windblown drought that displaced some 3.5 million and left 500,000 totally homeless. That’s not counting the scores of people who died from dust pneumonia and malnutrition.

Jesse and his family lived in the epicenter of that world. He was always good for a funny story. His passing left, among other things, a void of laughter in this world.

Like most people, during those horrible years of natural and economic catastrophe, he and his family lived in remote isolation from anything like civilization. Going anywhere meant hitching up a wagon.

One day, his father did just that, hitched up the wagon for a trip to town. Before he left, he left Jesse and his brother with strict instructions. “Whatever you do, don’t be playing with that rifle I keep in the corner of the kitchen.”

Kids being kids, heck, people being people, the dust of the wagon wheels hadn’t even settled before Jesse and his brother grabbed the gun and were playing with it in the barnyard. Jesse’s brother began taunting Jesse to, “Shoot at that pig standing over there.”

Jesse knew better than to shoot at the pig. If something were to go wrong and his aim was better than his imagination, someone or something would die a miserable death.

Still, hankering for some immediate gratification at someone else’s expense, his brother kept pushing.

Intending only to scare the pig, Jesse finally took aim and pulled the trigger. His best intentions aside, instead of scaring the pig the rifle shot found its unintended mark and killed the pig mid-oink.

The brothers had a real dilemma on their hands. It’s hard to hide a dead pig, especially in a barnyard. Even if they buried the pig, the evening swine count would be off. They knew their luck had run out. One way or another their dad would find out that, not only had they been playing with the forbidden gun, they’d destroyed one of the family’s most valuable assets. They’d need to lie twice to cover up this mess.

It was worth a try anyway. The boys stood over the dead pig pondering their options. Finally, they drove some wooden stakes in the ground on the far side of the pig and, together, lifted it to its feet propped up against the stakes.

From a distance, it looked like the pig was only standing still, rooting around for something to eat in the dirt. For too brief a moment, they thought it might work. It did work, until dad came home.

That evening, when he went out to slop the pigs, all of them came running, except for one that seemed frozen in place, unresponsive even to the slop.

We never are more at risk than when we think we’re above any particular sin. To say we “can’t” or “won’t” do this or that sets us up for believing we’re immune to any given temptation. Jesse didn’t mean to kill the pig. He was so sure he wouldn’t; he took the shot anyway.

The lesson of shooting the pig, among others, is that one cover-up only leads to another, not toward healing and wholeness.

If we lie long enough, we’ll start to believe our own fake story because we’ve heard ourselves tell it over and over until the line between truth and lie is more than blurred.

The worst lie we ever tell is the one we tell ourselves while we’re trying to convince someone else we’re telling the truth.

If we live a double life, eventually, we’ll lose our own sense of dignity and self-respect. The only way to survive and thrive in a culture more inclined than ever to lie, is to make confession a routine part of our lives.

To confess means to bring ourselves in alignment with the truth, no matter how painful that might be. Until at least one other person knows the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about us because until we’ve confessed it, we’ll be the dead animal propped up against something that won’t hold forever.

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