I’m not 100% sure if sheep are cuter than pigs. There are these miniature pigs now that I assume some entrepreneurial soul has bred into existence to meet the western world’s hunger for cuteness. Facebook sometimes has snippets of pig-cuteness: running and snorting, startling the housecat, eating from a little girl’s hand. Cute, cute, so very cute.
And then there are sheep: lambs to be more specific. Lambs jump on all fours when they’re small, like some kind of bouncy floor is under them, like they have Reeboks on with mechanical springs. They just hop, all at once. I don’t even know how basic physics allows this. Lambs, too, have been exploited on Facebook, much to the delight of stay-at-home moms and bored employees stuck in cubicles everywhere.
If you don’t already know, pigs are super-smart, like smarter than dogs, and lambs are super-stupid, and I was thinking about the esoteric reality of this in church this morning as our pastor spoke on Luke 15; the parable of the lost sheep (sometimes my mind wanders).
Okay, so this is a stretch—theologians don’t judge me—but remember when Jesus casts the evil spirits out of the crazy man in the graveyard (Matt 8)? Remember where the evil spirits go? They go into a bunch of PIGS. Yes, that’s right, PIGS!
Again, anyone with an M.Div. or above, you can plug your ears now; my wee little thought about other genus’ intelligence got me thinking about how it’s the stupid lambs Jesus is always saving, and then in Matthew 8 he sends a (flock? herd? whatever a bunch of pigs are called) over a cliff to their death. I always thought that was just a little bit mean, by the way. They didn’t do anything wrong, those pigs, but whatever.
So the pigs go over the cliff, and the lambs are carefully cared for, down to the last one. The lambs are cradled and fluffed and fed and carried on the shoulders of a very, very, kind shepherd, whom we all know to be Jesus. The pigs, on the other hand, plunge off a cliff in a snorting, squealing mess.
What preceded my theologically inferior pause as I listened to the sermon, was that suddenly it occurred to me that just as we, God’s beloved children, are saved, perhaps because of our stupidity, or at least our understanding that we need a shepherd or we likely will wander off and get our head stuck in a fence, pigs are used as fodder for demons. The smart animals in the larger world of animals that have the equivalent of a M.Div. or a PhD (sorry again theologians) are the ones headed for, well, the cliff. The smart pigs don’t seem to understand their very real need for a shepherd to stop their fervent, yet very blind, stampede.
And this is where my attention snapped back and I heard our pastor say something to the effect of when did you realize that you were truly, profoundly, lost? For me, it was when I realized that I was super-dumb and hopeless, and given my less-than-helpful freewill, would soon get all tangled in barbed wire and bleat like a babylamb (I like babylamb more as one word). The antithesis being a pig that maybe doesn’t realize it needs a shepherd until it’s launched off a cliff.
I like my little thought about pigs and lambs.
Gratefully, I discovered that I was truly lost and stupid over 25 years ago. And, honestly, since then I’ve discovered it over and over again. I’m glad for this. Sweet, holy, Jesus, I keep wandering over to the quicksand and the wire; thank you for getting me—and for all those rides on your shoulders in the moonlight and the dawn.