Sometimes, we refer to ourselves as “accidental farmers” because we did not enter farming vocationally.
Even as we are in the homestretch of our 20th growing season, we realize that what we don’t know about this way of life surpasses the collective knowledge and wisdom we have gained by learning as we go for 20 years.
Still, every so often we experience a special joy when something happens that connects us with the larger world of agriculture, and we have that sense of shared experience and community with other farmers.
The weaning of calves provides just such an experience. In addition to the variety of produce that is grown on our farm, we also raise beef cattle.
We manage the herd in two locations. The pasture next to our home is reserved for the young steers to graze on for a year or so until they are ready to “graduate.”
We learned early on that it is best not to name the calves in the same way we had enjoyed finding just the right name for each lamb. Many years ago, we named the first two calves “Pit” and “Beef,” and that was the end of naming calves.
Most of the herd, including mother cows and their calves, enjoys lush grass in another pasture near our main property. So when the young steers are moved to the home property, they are freshly weaned.
The sound of bellowing that emanates from a just-weaned calf can be rather alarming to the untrained ear.
The first couple of seasons we raised cattle, the sound was so disturbing we felt like we needed to apologize and explain to the neighbors that this was a normal process of weaning, and we weren’t neglecting the poor beasts in their misery.
This year, an incoming class of eight steers joined in the din of crying and bellowing that lasted for almost a week.
Instead of being disturbed by it, we are now able to nod knowingly, in solidarity with every cattle farmer around the world, in recognition that this cacophony will be short-lived and represents the process of moving from mother’s milk to solid food.
Who can blame these young steers for wanting to stay connected to the readily accessible supply of milk available to them 24 hours a day?
Are we any different? Growing up and making our way in this world is hard. There is a spiritual parallel for the Christian.
When we first come to faith, the decision for Christ is in many ways the easy part. There can be a great temptation to stay “infant” Christians, resting on the knowledge of our eternal salvation.
But, in Hebrews 5:13-14 we learn: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
We are called to maturity in our walk of faith, which means living under the lordship of Christ, becoming an active soldier in spiritual battle.
The abundant life is characterized by the pursuit of righteousness and feeding on truth so that we can be prepared in ministry to others, not content to rest in the milk of our own salvation.
It is only in spiritual maturity that we are able to withstand the storms of this life and at the same time serve others in love and fidelity to our Christian calling.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:14-15: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian and Christian martyr, spoke in his writings of “cheap grace,” which he contrasts to “the cost of discipleship.”
Bonhoeffer challenges all who claim faith in Jesus Christ to consider just how costly the sacrifice was that made the way of grace possible, and to embrace the path of sanctification — or growing in Christian maturity — which leads each follower into a deeper knowledge of the glory and goodness of God, and our obligation and opportunity to be a beacon of his light and love to others.
This post was originally published on Lancaster Farming.