We left home last Wednesday with great anticipation for the week ahead. We had two profiles to film as part of an ongoing project and a conference to attend. Both had our creative juices flowing. We were giddy with expectation.
Because we have six cows on pasture and a small flock of chickens – in addition to our dog and two cats – we have to make extra provisions for animal care compared to our urban counterparts. For instance, we know if the cows run low on grass in a pasture, at least one of the steers has an inclination to jump the fence looking for greener opportunities. And a cow getting in the road is a car wreck and a multi-million dollar lawsuit just waiting to happen.
As we rolled down the drive, I glanced over at the layer flock with a passing thought: “I hope today’s rain doesn’t cause the chickens’ electric fence net to sag over.” We were running about 30 minutes past our planned departure with a set time to meet one of our interviewees in Knoxville. I reassured my internal alarm with the knowledge that our neighbors were watching over our animals. And anyway, we can’t stay home and be on the road doing our work, so we had to get going.
There are times you don’t want your caller ID to show a friendly face. Friday morning at 6:11 was one of them.
Our flock of 23 layers had been decimated by a pack of dogs overnight.
When a pack of domestic dogs attacks, it’s for “fun” and it’s a bloody mess. Although several were dead, many had to be put down because they were still living but too torn up to survive. Four birds survived and we hope they’ll heal and be capable of laying eggs again.
While we grieve for the chickens – and the great eggs! – we’ve lost, the fear that so quickly escalates is the vulnerability we feel to spiritual and emotional attack when we are most open to pursuing our hearts’ desires for adventure and doing the work that, we believe, has the greatest impact.
The irony is that, at our core, we understand that our lives need to be vulnerable if we’re going to do anything that has meaning or makes a difference in the world. The higher the stakes, the more exciting the game becomes.
Most people say they want an interesting life. But most people don’t want any of their own skin in the game. It’s great to be a raving, lunatic fan of your favorite sports team, but that’s a far cry from putting yourself on the field of play.
As we got the heart-kicking news of the dog attack, we were getting ready to head to the Storyline conference we were in Nashville to attend. My first reaction was that of the angry victim – “Why did this have to happen while we’re so far from home and so out of control?” But when are we ever really in control?
In the moment, I had to stop the questions of doubt and accusation in my mind and replace them with statements of fact about what I could and could not do. There is action I can take that will minimize our loss but I can never eliminate the possibility of disaster.
The most important decision we each made in the moment was to not allow a fog of anger and fear to settle in our hearts. We decided to accept the pain and move into the day with excitement and the anticipation that learning and being challenged held for us. I didn’t try to ignore my grief. But I didn’t allow it to frame my days either.
There are going to be attacks and losses in our lives regardless of what we do. But if we don’t embrace them as part of a greater narrative and push through them to a redeeming conclusion – if we allow the attacks to define us rather than us define them – then of what real value is the struggle?