A PARABLE OF A PIG

All We Could See was Heads, Snouts, and Ears

We’ve all had those experiences where we know something bad is going to happen, and yet we can’t do anything to stop it or keep it from happening. Several years ago my wife and I were making a trip. Our journey would take us north on Interstate 5, through the Columbia Gorge, and then up into eastern Washington State for the week.

As we got on the freeway heading north, we found ourselves behind an old furniture truck loaded with pigs. Since they were large and full grown, no doubt they were on their way to the slaughterhouse. The pigs were secured by a barrier/gate in the back of the van. The gate was just a couple of 2 x 12s —  one on top of the other. Our car was the vehicle immediately behind the van, and all we could see was heads, snouts, and ears.

The entrance onto the freeway was a cloverleaf that swung traffic around to merge north onto the highway. As we came around to go north one of the pigs lifted himself up by putting one hoof over the top of the barrier and then another. He rocked back and forth trying to leverage himself over the barrier and out of the truck. My wife began to say, “Oh my goodness…oh my goodness.” I knew I couldn’t stop the impending catastrophe so I slowed my vehicle.

As the truck merged onto the freeway at about 30 miles an hour, the pig came tumbling out head over haunches on its side onto the pavement. He slid about 25 feet, and he then pulled himself up on his front legs. The traffic behind us came to a halt, and as I drove by I could gaze into the pig’s face (I guess pigs have faces). He looked stunned, dazed, and bewildered. I don’t think he had any plan about what to do next. The truck driver had no idea that he’d lost part of his cargo. As the truck sped away the vibration of the truck caused the ears on the pigs to shake up and down. It was as if they were waving goodbye to their friend.

Since I knew nothing about pigs I thought that the most I could do was stop the truck and alert the driver. We followed the truck for several miles, and I honked my horn and flashed my lights. I pulled alongside the vehicle waving trying to get the driver’s attention, but there was no response. The driver was engaged in a very animated conversation with the passenger seated in the cab next to him. It was also evident that even if I stopped the truck I might have a communication problem. Eventually I gave up, and my wife and I went on our way. I reasoned that the cars behind us were forced to stop and would call the police.

In the days that followed I wondered what happened to that pig. We returned home for the weekend and I spoke at our morning service. When the service concluded I stood at the church’s front doors and spoke with people as they left. One of the dispatchers, a member of the State police, attended my church. He was present on the Sunday following the incident with the pig. I asked if he knew anything about a pig being abandoned on the freeway that week. He said, “You know when I was on duty this week I had a couple of calls about a pig on the freeway. I dispatched two patrol cars at separate times, but they never found the pig.”

I don’t know what happened to the pig. There is a golf course nearby, an old peach orchard, and a marsh at that interchange. Did the pig live out his days there? Or, did someone stop and get a free pig? When the cargo arrived at its destination did the farmer discover that he was missing a pig? Did he send the truck driver back to search for its missing passenger? I’ll never know. The years have passed, and believe it or not, the Lord has taught me a lesson or two from this little parable.

First, I have concluded that the pig was pushed. You must understand ultimately as the pig moved closer and closer to the back of the truck he was pushed out. Such a claim may shock you (or maybe you don’t think about such things but indulge me and listen to my point). As the pig moved to the edge, the herd pressed in upon him, and he couldn’t go back into the truck. There was only one way to go and that was out onto the pavement.

Life has the habit of throwing us a curve, and we all come tumbling out of our comfort zone at some point. It’s going to hurt, but you can survive. These hard things either make us bitter or they make us better. It might be the breakup of a relationship, a life-threatening disease, the loss of a loved one. You might lose your job, or face a natural disaster. At some point in time its just going to happen, and you won’t be able to stop it.

Further reflection on this parable has taught me a second lesson from the pig’s experience. It is human nature to fight and resist when it is obvious that we are being pushed out by someone or several someones. Perhaps you know what it’s like to go through an experience where you came tumbling out. Not out of the back end of a truck, but you know what its like to be rejected — pushed out. Perhaps you were cast aside and rejected by someone you trusted and you thought loved you. It hurt when you hit the ground and you were stunned, dazed, and disoriented. In all honesty, you must recognize what just happened may have saved your life. I am not talking about your physical life, but I am speaking of the things that make you productive and give you joy. Sometimes we don’t realize that we’re in toxic and destructive situations that are off task and crushing our spirit.

Let me explain a little bit more: Much of what American Christians and the American Church does isn’t even on the “to do list” that Christ gave us. This is what I am thinking of when I say we are in situations that are off task. Apart from teaching people the Bible, the American Church focuses on tasks that perpetuate the church as an organization rather than fulfilling Jesus’ “to do list.” Leaders may unwittingly choose to teach topics that divert our attention from what is really important.

We have been warned that it is possible to be off task and to focus on the wrong things. Jesus admonished us when he said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; ‘but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.'” Many of us have to admit that we are heading down the road of life just enjoying the ride and delighting in the view.

When you are being pushed out, at first you may think that it’s just your fellow travellers that have gone wild. Look very closely and you may be surprised to see a familiar face guiding the herd. The One shepherding the herd will be the Lord. He will be directing events to push you out and on. He won’t be trying to shame or hurt you. It has to be done this way because you won’t let go of what is of little or no eternal importance.

In 1956, Nate Saint along with his fellow missionaries Jim Elliot and Ed McCully were martyred by Auca Indians. Nate left us these  sobering words, “And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”

In this parable/life story I’d like to think that the pig that fell of the truck didn’t make it to the slaughterhouse — he didn’t suffer through the experience of his fellow passengers. When I told this story to one of my pastor friends he shouted, “Glory! He was saved from destruction!” Sometimes God is working and using people to push us out to keep our lives from being unfruitful and meaningless. He doesn’t want our opportunity to serve Him to be wasted and destroyed.

One final thought: It’s important to stop thinking of yourself as one who was rejected and start recognizing that you are the one that got away!

(Copyright, Keith Churilla, 2012.)

Also by this author: The Armor of Light Bible Study & Planner
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Also by this author: The Armor of Light Bible Study & Planner

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