We bought our pigs from a farmer when they were no more than 30 pounds. That created a problem that usually the boys and I were the only ones home to deal with. Once the pigs were over 100 pounds they could no longer root their way under the pen, but those young ones did it with regularity, especially the first week or so when they had not yet learned this was their new home and they could count on being fed. More than one morning I went out to feed them and found the pen empty, spending the remainder of my morning looking for the pig out in the woods.
One Wednesday evening when Keith had to work, the boys and I stepped outside to load us and our books into the car for the thirty mile trip to Bible study, only to see the young pig, probably 40 pounds by that time, rooting in the flower beds. We spent the next forty-five minutes chasing it. You would think three smart people, two of them young and agile and me not exactly decrepit in those earlier days, could corner a pig and herd him back to the pen. No, that pig gave chase any time any one of us got within twenty feet of him, and they are much faster than they look.
You see things in cartoons and laugh at the pratfalls exactly as the cartoonist wanted you to, knowing in your mind that such things never could happen. When you chase a pig you find out otherwise.
Once we did manage to corner the thing between a fencepost and a ditch and Lucas, who was about 12, leapt for him with his arms outstretched. Somehow that pig managed to move and Lucas landed flat on the ground on his stomach while the pig ended up trotting past all of us on his merry way, wagging his head in what looked like amusement.
Another time Lucas actually got his arms around the pig’s stomach, but even an un-greased pig is a slippery creature. Nathan and I never had a chance to grab on ourselves before it was loose again and off we all ran around the property for the umpteenth time, dressed for Bible study by the way, which made the sight much more ridiculous, especially my billowing skirt.
We never did catch that pig. He simply got tired and decided to go back into the pen. I had opened the gate and as he trotted toward it, we all gratefully jogged behind him, winded and filthy and caring not a hoot that it was his idea instead of ours. Still, he had to have the last word. Instead of going through the open gate, at the last minute he ran back to where he had gotten out in the first place and slunk under the rooted out segment of the pen. Then he turned around and looked at us. “Heh, heh,” I could almost hear with the look he gave us. We shut the gate, filled in the hole, loaded up the feed trough, and went inside to clean up, arriving at Bible study thirty minutes late and too exhausted and traumatized to learn much that night.
God is a promise maker. He has given us so many promises I could never list them all here. We have a habit of treating those promises like a pig on the loose, like something we can’t really get a good hold of, certainly not a secure one.
I grew up in a time when it was considered wrong to say, “I know I am going to Heaven.” Regardless the fact that John plainly said in his first epistle, “These things I have written that you may know you have eternal life,” (5:13), actually saying such a thing would get you a scolding about pride, and a remonstrance like, “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall!” We were too busy fighting false doctrine to lay hold of a hope described as “sure” in Heb 6:19.
That word is the same one used in Matt 27:64-66. The priests and Pharisees implored Pilate to make Jesus’ tomb “sure” so his disciples could not steal the body and claim a resurrection. He told the guards, “Make it as sure as you can.” Do you think they would have been careless about it? Do you think there was anything at all uncertain about the seal on that tomb? Not if you understand the disciplinary habits of the Roman army. It is not quite as obvious because of the different translation choice, but the Philippian jailor was given the same order, using the same word, when Paul and Silas were put in prison: “Charging the jailor to keep them safely [sure],” and he was ready to kill himself when he thought they had escaped.
That is how sure our hope is—“an anchor…steadfast and sure.” It isn’t like a pig we have to chase down. It isn’t going to slip through our fingers if we don’t want it to. Paul told the Thessalonians that “sure” hope would comfort them, 2 Thes 2:16. How comforting is it to be fretting all the time about whether or not you’re going to Heaven? How reassuring is it to picture God as someone who sits up there waiting for you to slip so He can say, “Gotcha!” That is how we treat Him when we talk about our hope as anything less than certain.
I never knew what to expect when I stepped out of my door the first few weeks with every new piglet. If we hadn’t needed it, I would not have put myself through the anxiety and the ordeal. Why in the world would anyone think that God wants us to feel that way about our salvation?
…in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal, Titus 1:2.