On our little farm, we try to share the responsibility of the chores, though admittedly, Wade and my dad bear the brunt of them. For us, the most difficult task is the essential that reminds us daily why suburbia wasn’t so bad: water. Watering sheep, watering chickens, watering the garden. In the winter, water is still the big issue. Other than my fleece leopard-print pajamas (my winter morning chore attire of choice), I feel like a pioneer woman as I bust frozen troughs with tobacco sticks or carry whistling tea kettles to soften ice. Spring is a slog of mud, but at least the troughs stay full of fresh rainwater. Ever since summer, any rain in the forecast has been a mirage in this dusty desert of parched bluegrass.
Everything needs water. Like our broiler hens, or meat birds, we carry ten gallons of water to them at least twice a day. Depending on their physiological state (if they are healthy/pregnant/nursing) and the environmental conditions like the unforgiving heat, access to shade, or dewy grass, sheep can drink anywhere from ½ to five gallons of water per day. Even honey bees need water in the summertime. The foraging bees will leave the clover and zinnia patches and head for the local pool, pond, birdbath, or dripping hose to gather water for the hive. The bees return home to deposit the water droplet into the cells of the comb while other bees busily fan their wings to evaporate the water for a cooling, almost air-conditioning effect. By far, these are the easiest for us to tend.
Then there’s Timothy, the ram.
Ever since the lambs were born, we’ve had to deal with the issue of keeping Ole Tim separated from the others. His solitary confinement is the electrical fence that moves wherever the weeds grow. He had his own bucket of water, his own shady tree, and he should have been as happy as a pig in mud, but Timothy is a ram. Bull-headed and muscle bound, he spends each day proudly on his hill, rumbling a belch/bleat noise as greeting (or warning), and knocking over his water bucket almost as soon as we fill it.
Every day, we filled the bucket, and he headbutted it. Over and over, this happened for weeks, and I lost sleep worrying if he was going to die of thirst. I know the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” How about rams? Can you fill their buckets, and keep them from pretending they are the star of a 90’s Mountain Dew commercial?
Rams aren’t the only ones with thick skulls, are they? The lyrics of rapper Lacrae’s “Boasting” come to mind: “Dying of thirst, but willing to die thirsty.” How often do we reject Christ’s love, mercy, and grace? How often are we willing to die on the hill of pride instead of accepting Jesus’ life-giving way?
July is traditionally the month devoted to the Precious Blood of Christ. We remember Christ’s blood poured out for humanity from the cross, and we pray that it’s not spilled on the ground in vain, but that the mystery of Christ’s death and glorious resurrection is embraced with thanksgiving by all mankind.
I think of Jesus on the cross, beaten and bare, and the words of the Lord pierce my heart. Jesus said, “I thirst,” (John 19:28). Friends, Jesus thirsts for you. It’s a burning desire to empty Himself—His peace, goodness, hope, and Heaven—for you. He never stops thirsting for you, and yet He is an eternal fountain that never stops gushing out love for you.
Then why, sometimes, am I so spiritually parched? Why does my patience or resolve for any virtue run dry? Why, when I go to church, does the ground seem more arid than holy? Why does my desire for prayer and devotion evaporate? Just as God allows the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous, God permits the drought. In the words of St. Catherine of Sienna, “We come to know both ourselves and God better in times of struggle and when our spirit is all dried up.” Are you thirsty? A little bull-headed? “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink,” (John 7:37).
Praying you and yours grow closer to God, for the Farmer’s bucket wells forth all life and happiness. I’d even guess He has one of those expensive, no-tip troughs for you, too, like Timothy’s shiny, new one.