Have you ever had an up close and personal relationship with manure? You know…sticky, smelly, squishy…comes from the wrong end of everything? You read it right, manure! Well, my encounter with manure is one I’ll never forget!
As a new teacher from the city, in a small, rural town, twelve hours away from all my family and friends, I was welcomed into the home of a fellow teacher for supper each weekend. (She later became my mother-in-law but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, I loved going there because it was on a farm and there were so many new things to see and do. Of course I never considered a rendezvous with manure being one of them.
After supper one cold, blustery night, Joe, the youngest in the family had to go check on the cows. As he donned his coveralls he looked back over his shoulder and jokingly asked if I’d like to join him. Much to his surprise (and mine too) I said yes. So began my transformation. Coveralls, gloves, a disreputable hat, and knee-high black rubber boots. I was quite thrilled with my get-up and felt ready for the cover of The Farmer’s Almanac! Out the door we went. With an uncoordinated swing of my leg I plopped on the back of the three wheeler behind Joe and we took off around the fields checking for any new calves. The icy air slapped my cheeks and the bars I was sitting on slapped my other….well, you get the idea. Approaching the barn, I thought our job was coming to an end but we paused right outside a large opening. What I saw in front of me sent a shiver down my spine. There in our path was a huge pile of snow. Joe looked back at me and seeing the terror in my eyes he smiled, revved the engine, and took off determined to give me the ride of my life! I had a sinking feeling.
sinking became more than a feeling! As it turned out, it was not the snow pile we’d anticipated. Instead it was an enormous mountain of manure disguised by a layer of clean, white snow. Momentum propelled us upward but just as the wheeler reached the top, the engine died and we sank. Despite several valiant attempts, Joe was unable to get us free so he told me I’d have to drive and he’d get off and push us out. This is where city girl made her mistake . Having never driven a three-wheeler or anything close to it, I was scared and so I firmly refused. With more confidence than I actually felt, I told Joe that I’d get off and push!
To his credit, Joe did ask me if I was sure before he agreed. Attempting to appear undaunted I stepped right down into the waiting muck. My feet began to disappear deep into the mire until manure was dripping down inside my knee-high boots; gunk soaking through my socks. Gripping the back bar of the wheeler I listened as Joe counted……Are you picturing where this is going?
One, two three!…….He gunned the motor. With a gallant effort, I pushed. The tires spun. And yes, in a split second I had cow manure everywhere manure could possibly go. In my hair, dripping from my eyelashes, my nose, in my ears, covering my clothes. I was manure from. top. to. bottom. As I stood stuck, with globs of poo plopping from the brim of my hat and sliding down my face, I learned that being deep in the muck is NOT where I wanted to be!
Since then I’ve come to realize that life can sometimes feel like being stuck deep in the muck. Stress at work, bills to pay, health issues, troubled marriage, worrying about children, plans that don’t work out….the list is long. None of us want to be lodged in the depths of these situations but when we find ourselves unexpectedly sinking, what a comfort it is to know we are not alone.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:2-3 (NIV)
I certainly don’t have all the answers and I flounder when I find myself not where I want to be. I may not always see a solution right away or recognize God leading me to solid ground as I struggle in the slime, maybe you can relate, but this I do know… His word assures us we can look to Him for help and He’ll not leave us on our own.
The end of my “farm-hand initiation” that winter night? It came when Joe suddenly (not quite quickly enough for me, mind you) remembered a switch on the three-wheeler that when flipped, enabled the tires to lift up out of the murky hole they’d been trapped in. I’ll never forget his sheepish grin as he reached out his hand and helped me, manure smell, and all, back onto the wheeler.
This was the first of many adventures I had on the farm but the lesson I learned in the manure is my favorite. When I find myself unable to move forward or release what is behind me. When I’m sinking and stuck deep in the muck I’m reminded that just as the tires were lifted up so many years ago, we have a God that we can trust to lift US up. That smells like victory to me!