THE CHICKEN, THE PIG AND THE COW: PERSONAL LIFE LESSONS FROM THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The rat was on his way home from work to see his beloved family as usual when tragedy struck. The farmer had lined up the only path to the rat’s house with rat traps. There was no going past it. The rat began to fret and sweat. He ran to the chicken and informed it of the trap and his predicament but the chicken sent him out of his house emphasizing that it was not its problem. The rat dashed down to intimate the pig of its plight. The pig listened with a wry smile on its face and told the rat not to worry because all would turn out well eventually. The rat was so desperate, it ran to the cow who was sleeping. The rat shook the cow awake and told it there were many rat traps in the farm, the cow sarcastically assured the rat that something would be done about the situation in their lifetime and went back to sleep.
The next day the farmer’s wife went to inspect the traps and unknown to her one of them had caught a large snake which bit her. Unsurprisingly, she fell ill. The farmer immediately sought the advice of the local village doctor. He recommended chicken soup for starters. The chicken was immediately killed. As time went on, the farmer’s wife got worse and people began to come in droves to console her in her darkest hours. The farmer felt the least he could do was feed them, so he killed the pig to serve his guests. Not long after, his wife died. The cow was killed for the funeral…
The first lesson is a bit of a cliche but it is funny how often we revive the spirit of this cliche in our human existence. We often take things for granted until they are gone. It would never have occurred to the rat to be grateful for the path to his house, he may not even have valued his family as much until access to them was cut off.
In the same way, freedom to interact with people was something I had taken for granted. Freedom to shake hands, touch, embrace and in the case of some of my Mediterranean friends, greet with a kiss (or two, if they are from Turkey!). The pandemic has turned everyone into a suspect. I ordered pizza this week and when the delivery man finally came through, you would have thought he was delivering a radioactive nuclear weapon. He kept his distance, held the tip of the box and stretched it out. He at least did it with a smile. Why do we always have to lose something to value it?
Till date, I value my eyes, because when I was in high school, I was trying to open my wooden locker in the night when the edge of the sharp “catcher” grazed just inches below my left eye. Any further up, it would have taken that eye out. What do you take for granted?
The last time I valued freedom this much was when I was in jail. I saw the prisoners behind bars, how there was no light in their eyes, no hope for the next day, the horrible conditions they lived in. Those eight hours had a huge impact on me…and before you get any funny ideas, I was only there to bail someone out. What do you take for granted?
A man was grumpy and depressed because he had only one shoe, I do not mean one pair, literally one shoe. As he walked down the road, he saw a man with one leg. He ended up being grateful. Irrespective of the situation, there is something to be grateful for. This period of isolation even gives us ample time to think about what we have taken for granted but ought to be grateful for.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)
THE CHICKEN, THE PIG AND THE COW
The second lesson I have learnt is empathy. Too often we do not care about things that (we think) do not adversely affect us. Ordinarily, I do not give a hoot about epidemics. I have a deep-seated faith in the word of God that it would not come near me (Psalms 91:10) and even if it did, I really am not afraid to die, after all my life isn’t that great. This mindset produced a level of insensitivity, with a touch of arrogance on my part.
The coronavirus pandemic continued to affect industry after industry, trade after trade, business after business and I honestly did not care until it affected the one thing that gives me joy, church services!
My church that is usually full of life; hugs and handshakes and kisses and pats and caresses had all that stripped off it as a result of the government’s directive in response to the pandemic. The church felt like a leper colony. A man without hands would not have felt out of place because everyone with hands hid them firmly in their coat pockets. Much like the chicken, pig and cow, what I did not care about came round to bite me hard in the butt. This made me a bit sensitive to this sensitive issue, but there was still one incident that would convince me beyond all doubt that I had become a totally different man in this regard..
During the week, on the whatsapp group chat forum of the church I belong to back home in Africa, some one sent a forwarded post about the coronavirus and how it was “an ordinary virus that was clearing the streets and making men panic” and how that God was sending a message to the world because of sin and some other things too stupid to even share. I immediately pounced on the post and the author blasting whoever it was for spouting such a fatuous piece from an unlearned and not-so-blissfully ignorant perspective. I also added that I definitely am all for the gospel but when people begin to unwisely use sensitive issues like the pandemic as a tool for attempting to blackmail people into the kingdom of God, that becomes a problem. The person who forwarded the post was honourable enough to delete it.
After that, I began to reflect and I realized that if I had still been in my home country at this time, I would definitely not have agreed with the post but only from a theoretical, logical and scriptural vantage point. I would not even have bothered to respond to it.
However, being in a country which has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic, interacting with American, English, Chinese and Italian acquaintances firsthand and hearing the catastrophic predicaments that have been been inflicted on their families as a result of the pandemic added a personal touch to it. This meant I was emotionally involved with those hit by the pandemic. It was no longer mere theory. That was why I uncharacteristically lashed out at the post. Immediately, scripture came alive in my heart,
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)
In other words, Jesus Christ is not just some guy with His head up in the heavenly clouds sipping the universe’s finest wine with His Father and commanding we mere mortals to maintain praise-filled lips and hearts in the circumstances. He Himself can relate with everything His people go through on an emotional, personal level. This is why He asks Paul,
“…Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
“… I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:4–5)
If Jesus was with the early church and felt their pain during the heat of persecution and He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), it is safe to conclude that Jesus is still with His people in the heat of this coronavirus pandemic.
Now still on empathy, the church has to realize that it cannot be insensitive at this point . It cannot be insensitive to the brethren. Remember we are all one body in Christ and Paul writes that if one part of the body suffers, all suffer with it, if one part rejoices all likewise rejoice with it (1Corinthians 12:26). We must realize that we are all one family (Ephesians 2:19, 3:14–15) and must stick together even during these times. Furthermore, the church cannot afford to be insensitive to the world around it because Jesus Christ, the head, is not. The church must let love lead and guide. Love “does not seek its own” (1Corinthians 13:5), love is empathetic. Hence Paul also writes,
“ Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)
The farmer had laid his mouse traps, he reasonably expected to catch mice. It was just another day at the office before his trap caught something else and things took an unexpected turn. Much like the farmer, we all had plans, reasonable ones. Targets to hit, paychecks and paydays, soaring returns on investments, bull markets and then all those expectations went up in flames as soon as coronavirus hit. The world’s richest men are losing billions of dollars faster than they ever earned them to begin with.
There is nothing new under the sun and scripture is replete with men that went through unexpected turns like these. Job and the rich fool (Luke 12: 16–21) are classic examples. The lesson here is two fold;
For one, men are helplessly limited. We can only foresee so much and even when we do, we can only do so much. Our actions and inactions have the ability to affect the world and people around us in an unfathomable number of possible permutations. It is often interesting to see men overrate their intellect, rationality and abilities but occurrences like this pandemic shows that it does not take much to, in the words of Andrew Wommack, make all of that fall apart like a two dollar suit-case. Job never got an explanation as to why what happened to him happened, all he got was a revelation as to his limits and how much he did not and could not comprehend about God, His ways and His works (Job 38–42).
Secondly, the world and everything in it is fleeting, transient and passing away. Even scientists have confirmed the world is heading for a literal melt-down. A fact that Peter, the ex-fisherman knew by revelation thousands of years beforehand (2 Peter 3:12).
This means we just cannot afford to base our joy, hope, happiness, fulfillment and identity on anything we hold, acquire or have achieved in this world because it doesn’t take much to lose it. By all means, these things are important for the present moment (I once humorously pointed out to someone that you cannot buy stuff with “the love of God shed abroad in your heart” at a convenience store) but whatever you have should not have you. Let your identity, your pride and your joy be that you are a child of God most high, the grand-architect of the universe so that like Paul, you can boldly say,
“ But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
In conclusion, the rat, chicken, pig and the cow were more connected than their limited minds could fathom. In like manner, in these times, we as a church and more importantly (ironic coming from a Christian, I know), as human beings are all in this pandemic together. So the earlier we all realize this and do whatever we can (whether its washing your hands, maintaining proper hygiene for the sake of others, checking up on people, being generous with our stuff, being kind and empathetic, praying if you believe in prayer or discovering the cure if you can) about those rat traps called coronavirus, the better for us all because not only are we helping the rat get back to his precious family, we are also saving our very own lives in the process.