Friday, December 07, 2007

Chewing the Cud

"My mind instructs me in the night..." I've always wondered at that tiny phrase. It sounded like a good thing but for a mind to instruct itself seemed puzzling. Now I think I understand it a little more, as my mind was doing its best to act as teacher in the wee hours of the morning. One of the first things I did on rising was to look online to research the digestive tract of the sheep.
"The first major difference between the herbivore and the carnivore is the sheer amount of food the herbivore is forced to eat. While a carnivore can usually manage with one small meal a day, the herbivore must eat so much that it is continually eating and its stomach is never empty." (1) Isn't that interesting. And so for us who ever try to thrive on snatching the Scriptures in quick moments, or speed-reading to go on to the next thing, or reading while our minds are miles away, we must be downright emaciated. Think how we'd thrive if we ate like the sheep we are?! Continual eating...we'd stay in the grassy slopes and never on the rocky crags.
"(Sheep) need peace and quiet to ruminate. Healthy sheep and goats spend a third of their life, ruminating, which is belching up a ball of grass from the stomach, chewing it and then swallowing it again (commonly called, 'chewing their cud')." (2) Something here reminds me of Psalm 23. I think there's also a pretty clear parallel in our meditating on Scripture.
"Animals that have been on a high plane of nutrition, with abundant VFA production, have long, luxuriant papillae well suited to promote absorption. In contrast, animals which have been under nutritional deprivation have small, blunted papillae, and require time on a high quality diet to allow for development of their papillae and absorptive capacity." (2) People who have been fed a regular diet of solid preaching and Bible study can eat the solid meat rather than a baby's milk, because they are ready for it. If they have been deprived, then their spiritual digestive system, so to speak, is stunted.
"As a sheep grazes, the grass passes straight into the first chamber of the stomach, the rumen . This has a capacity of some four gallons. When the rumen is full, and the sheep has an opportunity, it regurgitates small parcels or 'cuds' of food back to its mouth for chewing and further mixing with saliva. The saliva of a sheep does not contain amylase necessary for digesting starch, so this 'chewing the cud' must merely be to aerate, macerate and mix the saliva more thoroughly to aid digestion of the grass." (1) I went to bed last night with my spiritual food in the first stomach, I guess. No wonder at 3 a.m. I was up chewing my cud. Lovely.
The matter which I was pondering was back to the matter of my post just previous regarding a puffed up composition which I was glad I hadn't posted (did I make myself clear there? Ha.). The person with whom I had interacted was our shepherding pastor...all the more I had felt foolish bugging him with my mess...and he very kindly called to check on me, must have suspected I wasn't doing well. He asked how I was and I answered "Mortified." (Something like a teen girl might say, "Oh, I just died...") The more accurate answer might have been, "Sheepish." Wouldn't that have put it in perspective? On considering that in the night, everything fell into place. When we remember we're sheep in the first place and inherently prone to foolishness, when we've been caught and our curly locks have been cut off, and our pink embarrassment shows through, we should be relieved that it's expected of us to mess up here and there. That's why we need shepherds. If we would never mess up we wouldn't need a Savior, let alone a shepherd.
Our pastor very kindly brought me back up to a standing position and encouraged me to try again at the point I was attempting...the other point, the one that had nothing to do with my self. Still, I was struck by how awful it felt for my pride to have been noticed. Well, in the cud I found that this was another form of pride--the idea that "I should be above pride. Pride should have no place in my life--other people, yes, but never me." Okay, that was painful. Once I acknowledged it, I could go on, and I feel much better now. Good when my expectations of myself are in line with reality...good and low. Pride is painful, I discovered. Being humbled should bring relief. If it doesn't, there's more pride to deal with than has been recognized.

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