A Sinner Walks into a Pit – Eyeball to Udder

In a brief sacred moment, on the 100-yard commute to work, I both notice God’s Presence and hear Him speak intimate words to my soul. The first element of my Barnyard Rhythms, God Calls Us, is well underway. Such a beautiful rhythm, mirroring a church service, to launch into my labors. I step down into the milking-parlor pit.

What could possibly go wrong?

Eyeball to udder. I spend six early morning hours of my work day in a 3-foot deep pit. It’s efficient, but mundane. At this level, I can sanitize teats, wipe them dry, hook up milking machines and finally, dip each teat in skin softeners containing protective anti-bacterial iodine.

The pit is half sacred place, half crucible.

It’s where I’m at my best. It’s where I pray, read Psalms out loud, add my feeble praises to the birdsong of the sparrow choir, and care for God’s creatures. I notice and absorb beautiful rhythms of creation, secretly expressed during the night hours, vigorously glorifying God and flourishing. Inviting me to join in. Inviting me to make drudgery divine.

It’s also where I’m at my worst.

In the pit, I am vulnerable. It’s frigid in the winter and sweltering in the summer. Newly freshened heifers, entering the milking-string for the first time, kick, scrape and bruise my hands and arms. A few savvy cows knock off my glasses with an accurate, intentional tail swat. Throughout the milking shift, I get splattered a ’plenty by cow pies a ‘plenty.

The crucible heats up. God begins to shape me. He reveals my idols, my counterfeit gods I look to instead of Him. Soul-sifting thoughts drip like venom from my wretched sinner’s heart. I nurse relational wounds, flash with anger at blocked goals, simmer with envy, resentment, inadequacy, arrogance, folly.

Time for the second element of my Barnyard Rhythms-God Cleanses Us. I desperately need remedy. I urgently need repentance, forgiveness. The good, daily kind of repentance where I acknowledge the dross that’s risen to the surface. I pull the church bulletin from my hip pocket and rehearse the scriptures from Sunday’s Prayer of Confession:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Psalm 51:1-3, 10-12, NIV)

God breaks into the Barnyard of Heaven as I hear His Promise of Forgiveness:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28, NIV)

Prayer: Dear Father, my self-efforts nor self-righteous works can’t cleanse me. But You can and do. Thank you for redeeming me and keeping me coming back for You. Amen.


3 thoughts on “A Sinner Walks into a Pit – Eyeball to Udder

  1. A lot of powerful stuff in here, Ron…

    I hear you, brother, loud and clear… working late and alone the mind wants to rehearse old episodes of “relational wounds, anger at blocked goals, simmer with envy, resentment, inadequacy, arrogance, folly”.

    I especially like the picture of your work place – “The Pit” and how it transforms from sacred place to crucible.” I picture you entering the milking parlor and getting ready for another session of unknown encounters in “The Pit”… Perhaps somewhat like a wrestler fearlessly stepping into the arena and saying, “Tonight, business will be taken care of…”

    [Gen 22:1 NASB] 1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

    But I like your use of “crucible”. When the Bible says God “tested” Abraham, Strongs describes that word as “assay” – the testing of a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality.

    In 10 grade metal shop we had a small foundry were we could make sand castings with aluminum. We would start by scouring barns and junk yards for anything that could be scrap aluminum… lawn mowers, outboard motors, electric skillets, etc. and haul our plunder back to the shop.

    Before investing any further time we first tested to see if the prospects were really aluminum and not the easily mistaken magnesium. Magnesium is a very light but also very reactive metal. If magnesium becomes ignited it burns at over 5000 degrees F and will burn using the nitrogen out of the air, it will steal the oxygen away from water and carbon dioxide (from a fire extinguisher) and burn it also, and then the freed hydrogen gas can cause another explosion. The only way to put out burning magnesium is to try and smother it with dry sand. So we took samples and put them under the torch – if they just melted… aluminum, if they burned… magnesium. Teenage boys and burning metal… what could go wrong?

    Next, we had to clean them – pressure wash or steam was best to get all the old glazed oil and grease off. If not thoroughly cleaned, you just make a mess in your crucible and filled the shop with choking black smoke. After cleaning, the aluminum parts are broken down into smaller bits that will fit inside the furnace – we liked to use sled hammers for this art of disassembly.

    Once in the furnace and melted, we would agitate and stir it with a metal rod to get the slag to rise to the top and remove it. It usually took several passes through the furnace to get all the loose slag out.

    With the slag out, the molten aluminum was not ready for pouring and still has a skin of dull crud on the top. The last step of cleansing is to throw in a handful of borax and stir. Borax is a flux that will make the liquid metal release any gasses and impurities still hidden. This takes several passes also.

    Suddenly, the molten aluminum seems to become transparent. Really, it doesn’t become transparent, but it does become a perfect first-surface mirror and is perfectly reflecting the fiery yellow-orange colors of the furnace and crucible.

    The crucible stays in the furnace extra long this time to absorb as much heat from the furnace as possible. The molten metal must stay absolutely hot and fluid while it is being carried from the furnace to the casting and poured down the hole called the sprue, fills the cavity inside, and the excess begins rising up in the opposite hole called the riser.

    Interesting, but what does all that have to do with us? God seeks us out – the scrap that others have given up on, cast away and thrown out as useless – God says is valuable to HIm and gathers us up. But first, are you suitable for the furnace or are you too “reactive” to submit to the crucible? If so, then you must receive the first cleansing with water, and then be broken down. Next, in the furnace, you will be melted and cleansed with fire to release the old slag. Then cleansed a third time to completely release all the hidden impurities from your former existence. Then as a mirror, you reflect your Master’s face and are ready for use.

    [Luk 3:16 NASB] 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

    Hmmm… baptized with water, fire, and Holy Spirit

    [Psa 66:12 NASB] 12 You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.

    [Psa 17:3 NASB] 3 You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.

    [Psa 105:19 NASB] 19 Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.

    [Isa 48:10 NASB] 10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

    [Zec 13:9 NASB] 9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”

    [1Pe 1:7 NASB] 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

    Thanks for this sharing of your soul, Ron. We get encouragement from it for our walk.

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! Robert, that’s a great story and a beautiful opening of God’s Word! I had no idea of the beauty inside the whole crucible, refining PROCESS. I was trying to distinguish between sacred place moments and crucible moments in the pit. What you are revealing to me is that they are ALL sacred moments.
    I get weary of the process of testing and refining cuz I beat myself up and am appalled at my “slag, gasses, and impurities.” I just want it to be over with. You remind me that each step involves “several passes.” I both cringe and rejoice that this may take a lifetime. My loving Father, however, is wise enough and caring enough to move to the next phase of purifying whether I like it or not. You give me the courage to stay in the crucible rather than give up hope.
    I especially love the context of: “Teenage boys and burning metal… what could go wrong?” So funny! I even see it as a metaphor about how I feel about trying to grow as a writer in a crucible. Reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain. “Being a writer is easy – write down all the words you know and cross out the bad ones.”
    Robert, the way you combined a vivid story with rich scripture fits so well with the pattern of how I’m trying to glorify God. I don’t want any readers out there to miss what you’ve described here. May I have your permission to re-post your comments as a fresh blog entry by guest blogger, Robert Jolly? Furthermore, if I’m able to assemble parts of my blog entries into a book proposal some day, do I have your permission to quote you with this fabulous insight?
    Again, thanks for your encouragement and insights.

  3. I am humbled, Ron. I would be an honor to have a small part in you achieving the vision in your heart. However, before re-posting, I see there are still errors to correct!
    -your friend

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