My first goat Alf came to me on a cold spring day. He was two days old. I held him in my arms and cuddled his soft, warm body. He looked very much like Bambi. An emergency call from a friend brought the baby to me and I began my adventure in goat herding.
His mother came with him on loan. Her udder was malfunctioning so I learned to milk her and feed Alf from a bottle. He was so cute butting the bottle as he would an udder. This brings the milk down in an udder but sends the baby bottle flying out of the unwary hand! Still it was great fun watching him eagerly suck at the warm liquid.
When I took mom and baby on walks, Alf would cavort around in the funniest ways. He would suddenly jump and twist like an acrobat. Every leaf needed inspecting and nibbling. Fallen trees were great tightropes to be conquered. I enjoyed watching him sampling all the verdure.
Fast forward this image about three years. Adorable little Alf is a two hundred pound buck. His horns remind me of a weightlifter’s biceps. He stands as high as our pony. And does he stink! As an unaltered buck and herd sire, he is quite proud of his musk. In fact, he believes that because the girl goats love it that I must also! He takes every chance to rub himself all over me. The stench can be overpowering, especially on a warm day.
Then there is rut season. My cuddly little Alf bellyaches day and night. The raucous noise echoes throughout the farm until I am crazy. His other goal is to destroy all my gates by using his elegant horns as a battering ram. (Pun intended). There are many other things that are unprintable in his repertoire.
Juxtapose this with my childhood. When I attended St Anthony’s in the fifties, I got to go to Mass every morning. Because of fasting restrictions, my parents had to make my breakfast and lunch. I remember my mother remonstrating with me one day when I repeatedly brought back my breakfast untouched. My reply was, “Jesus fills me up. I’m not hungry.”
Later, in fourth grade, while singing hymns at St Pius Catholic school I felt such an ecstasy of love for God. We were singing “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”. I felt sure that there was no greater place to be or any other greater song to sing than that at that moment.
When I received my first Holy Communion I was so excited I got sick. I barely made it through Mass.
Remembering these things used to cause me great sorrow. Where did that child go? I have always loved God but where did that purity and innocence go? How did I fall off the track and trade my Beloved for other’s opinions and attention? It seemed I could never go back. The path back to innocence and great love was barred.
But Jesus says to me, “Become like a little child.”
“What?” I reply, “You mean I can go back? I can become what You once made me?”
My childhood memories are not photographs but realities of who I am and who Jesus made me to be. This is what is offered. When He told Nicodemus that we must be born again, this is what He offered. It is a return to all that was best and holy in me when I was unspoiled.
As I pondered this truth today, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Alf. He annoys me terribly, especially when I have to repair his damage and wash my clothes. But he now reminds me that I don’t have to remain smelly and destructive with sin. The Lord of Life loves me enough not to just repair me, but transform me. Where is your child?