Not If or But When

Morning chores with the goats took longer than expected. It was a beautiful, cool morning and part of me just couldn’t hurry through it. In the back of my mind I wondered why the horses weren’t loitering around the goat pen and the donkey, as spokesman, wasn’t hurrying me up with his noxious bray. I should know better to discount things that don’t seem quite right.

As I walked toward the barn my heart started to sink. I didn’t see a sign of horses anywhere and that always means one thing: they had broken into the barn. Sure enough I heard my husband’s shouts and toted myself up there with unnatural calm.

When horses have nothing to do all night and they break into the barn, mayhem is the least of your problems. I had just bought feed and had three large cans of food there. I had locked the gate but undeterred, they just pushed over the countertop and drawers, the whole dividing partition between the tractor and the tack area. This, they knew from experience,  would uncover the cans.

The worst part about this is that horses will gleefully eat themselves to death on grain. In all the times the horses have broken in, by the grace of God they have never been able to get into the cans. But that doesn’t mean they never will. Each time I have modified the barn to make it harder to counteract human forgetfulness. But this morning I came to the realization that it is no longer “if” but “when” the horses will break in again.

Every time I plug up a hole, something else happens. I should know better: with animals it is never if but when. The best I can do is not lose my cool, pick up the mess, grieve or whatever the situation calls for. I can do preventative measures until the kingdom comes but there will always, somewhere be a hole in the dam.

The horses have gotten in more times this year and so I felt frustrated that no matter what I do I can’t circumvent human error. I just have to make sure they can’t get to the food or destroy moveable objects. Two stall doors were open. Now one I can understand, but two? We realized that either my donkey or my youngest horse (the scamp Koi) have learned to open the doors by lifting the latch. My old horse Max knew how to do this but I didn’t know anyone else did. We had installed special locks on the stall doors in order to thwart his prehensile lips.

So new rule: lock the stall doors whenever we go in and out. Once more we have made it more inconvenient to use the barn. What is a mother to do?

As I pondered my unnatural calm while we cleaned up the mess, I was again thankful that no horse was sick from overeating and the only damage was to things that can be repaired. I didn’t even swear!  But I began to relate this to my life. The day this happened was Divine Mercy Sunday.

I thought about how sin in my life, no matter how I try to prevent it is  “when not if”. But God’s mercy is eternal and there for the asking. There is such a peace in that. No, I don’t want to sin or do the evil I do just like I don’t want my horses destroying themselves or the barn. But they get in no matter what measures I take. That doesn’t mean I don’t take measures to become a better and more holier person. But I am so grateful for the mercy of God that precedes my inevitable falling down.

The barn incident has humbled me. I cannot create a perfect situation when it comes to animals. I can only do my best and deal with the consequences of human error, prehensile lips and animals with nothing to do but destroy in order to get to the goodies.  So it is with a “divine” calm I am humbled into not whipping myself into a frenzy when I fall short, or worse do downright unloving things. I ask Jesus to come into the barn and help me clean up the mess. Then He gently helps me figure out what went wrong and how to plug the holes. Preventative? Maybe not perfect, but certainly, in Him, always fixable. I like to think that, like my barn, I am slowly getting my life more protected from invasion.

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