Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chewing Cud

For the goat herder, there is no more peaceful sight than a bunch of goats placidly chewing their cud. For the ruminant, cud chewing is essential to good health. If you have ever seen a goat demolish dead leaves, bark, twigs and branches, you can believe that it would take an excellent digestion to get nutrition from it. Enter the rumen – that vital bacteria vat that cooks the mass and sends it back to the goat for further mastication. I don’t think goats chew the first time around – it just get inhaled, so to speak. So when I see my fluffy, white does sunning themselves and the steady grind, grind, grind of the lower jaw, I know all is well. It is especially comforting to see in an orphan baby because I know that they are successfully making the transition from bottle to regular food. When you are their “mama” so to speak, you must take great care to transition them as the rumen activates.
It is pretty funny to see their fat, squirrel-like cheeks. I wonder what they think about while they are chewing away. Because for the goats that I observe, cud chewing is not something you do on the run. You do not multi-task while you chew your cud!
It occurred to me that reading scripture must become like that for me. It is not enough to read it daily. Often I forget it almost as soon as I read it. And it doesn’t help, much, to just recall it on the run during the day. No, I must sit, relax and chew it thoughtfully, with the respect with which it is due.
I read the coming Sunday Mass readings throughout the week along with the daily readings. I felt pretty good that I was just getting them read every morning and training myself to recall them during the day. But to really have the Word written on my heart, in fact, to get anything out of it, I had to chew it, send it back into the brain vat, and chew it again. And to do it effectively, I can’t be doing something else.
One way I try to get myself into the daily reading plus the reading for Sunday Mass, is to try to find something new each time I read it. This came about when one Sunday reading was about leprosy and the proscriptions for it. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really want to read it every day! I didn’t have any way to relate to leprosy. However, by the sixth day I realized that leprosy was very much a part of my life. What leprosy is to the body, sin is to the soul. Leprosy kills the nerves within the body so that injury and pain aren’t felt. Consequently, undetected injuries cause the body parts to erode. Slowly, the person can injure themselves to death. I am sure this is simplistic but it is a basic understanding of Hansen’s disease. It became clear to me how sin works in the same way. It dulls my spiritual sense, opens me to the injurious lies of the devil, separates me from all that is good and holy. From that revelation I have acquired a new hatred for and vigilance against sin in my life.
Stopping, taking time to chew on scripture is very difficult for me. My life tends to be lived, “on the run”, akin to a swift moving river. But God, in His wisdom, has shown me the importance of cud chewing. Goats don’t have a choice about it – they must for a healthy life. Come to think of it – I don’t either.

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