That bulls are dangerous animals is without question. So when one attacked my friend, Mike, I was hardly surprised. After all, I lived in Kentucky and witnessed firsthand a bull taking out the corner of a neighbor’s brick house in a frenzied rage. When his dairy cows had acted as a unit to save his life, Mike entered the Dairy Farmer’s Hall of Fame (Well, he would if there was one). His girls, as he called them, were docile and affectionate. His farm was small enough that he knew each of his cattle by name. Theirs was a relationship of cooperation as he relieved their swollen udders twice a day, and they gave him a lot of milk.
However, one day while he was in the pasture with the girls, walking it over to check the quality of the grass, his bull, Rex, in the field one over, spied his activities. For some reason, the proximity of my friend to his harem enraged Rex and in an unprecedented move, Rex jumped the fence and made for Mike. He was out for blood, and Mike was a hundred yards from the fence. As Mike began to hightail it out of there, his cows formed a barrier between Mike and the maddened bull. They moved as one towards the fence, and Mike was able to escape. Some of his cows were less fortunate and were killed by Rex in his attempts to rid the world of one dairy farmer.
I am a sucker for animal stories, it’s true. But there is something more at stake here than animal heroics. A Youtube video, (link at bottom) of Christian the lion being reunited with his owners after years of separation reveals a glimpse of what I think of as the intersection between heaven and earth, a kind of paradise regained for a moment. The video of the lion greeting his friends with such love and enthusiasm pulled at millions of hearts as the segment went viral. I think we are moved by these stories and videos because deep down, we know we are catching a hint of the paradise we lost.
Occasionally I notice criticism of the current fascination with animals. The suggestion is, of course, that people ought to love people more than animals. But I think this misses the point. Misses a couple of points, actually. Enough love exists in the world for all of us. Love that competes is not love.
So I turn to Genesis for an interesting observation about the order of Creation. In the first order of creation in Genesis, Adam and Eve were created on the same day. However, in the next chapter, there is a lag between the creation of Adam and Eve. God brings Adam all the animals to name and only afterwards, seems to notice that Adam has no mate. There exists the suggestion that animals were almost enough but not quite the companions that Adam needed. A hierarchy of sorts does exist. God names Adam and in doing so, gives him an identity. Then God presents the animals for Adam to name, in imitation of what God has done with Adam. Naming is ultimately relational. We call each other pet names in order to solidify our identities with one another. We name them and in doing so, engage in relationship with animals. Relationship with animals is a God initiated activity. After the fall, of course, things change. But even so, if all nature groans for the revealing of the sons of God, then walking in relationship with animals is one of man’s first callings.
Some of my deepest, most comforting friendships have been with animals. The fact that this can be so, that God would create a world where the possibilities of companionship between man and creature, is a source of wonder to me.