Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

The faith of a vet    (7/26/2015 )

Having spent most of my life working on the farm side of a veterinary practice, I have spent a large amount of my time involved with the breeding of cattle and sheep - and therefore ultimately involved with birth events.

Even after over 30 years of practice, the thrill of helping an animal give birth to a live, perfectly formed little creature is hard to describe, and continues to be so. So much could go wrong; there are so many processes to go through from conception to birth; but so often it doesn’t. So often it’s perfect.

The calf or the little lamb struggling to its feet within minutes of birth and seeking out mum’s milk; the milk which is vital for the calf or lamb to survive, containing protective antibodies which will help to shield them from life-threatening diseases, is always a wonderful moment. All those years of training in a very scientific environment, and yet I cannot explain everything scientifically. There must be creator. How can I not believe?

Yes, the job also challenges your faith, too. Why did that case go so horribly wrong, when everything appeared to be going right? Why did that caesarean wound break down after I had spent so long stitching it up, and it appeared perfect? That animal should not have died, but it did. Have I, as a Christian, done enough to alleviate that animal’s pain? Should I have been more forceful with the owner on the animal’s behalf? And how does the euthanasia of hopeless cases fit with Christian faith?

Disease epidemics among animals are devastating for many rural communities, but why do they happen? Questions you cannot always answer, but continue to try.

It is a common misconception that vets deal solely with animals: they deal primarily with people. In a farm vet’s role you are also in a very privileged position, since you often build close working relationships with farmers and their staff in isolated communities. Occasionally, this trust can develop into a counselling role, particularly now that these communities do not have a local church with the resources to offer any meaningful pastoral care.

Many of my clients also know that I have a Christian faith, and I believe this is also the reason that I am privileged to share confidences. Much of this support could have been difficult without faith and a prayer resource.

In any workplace, it isn’t easy to stand up and declare your Christian faith. You may feel that you’re placing yourself on some sort of pedestal, from which it is all too easy to fall or be pushed. Can I live up to it?

Personally, I have never favoured lecturing or preaching to my colleagues or clients, or even telling them about my beliefs unless asked. I hope that by having compassion for my patients, and a consideration for everyone with whom I come into contact, this is sufficient witness for others to want to know more. 

Pray: Father God, so often we try to put you and your wonders in a little box and explain you away using our limited human understanding. Yet even those who have made a career of scientice can recognise your creating, healing hand in its laws and truths. Help me to do the same in my life and work. I also pray for vets and those who cate for animals everywhere. Amen.

Think: We tend to want to blame someone when things go wrong - like with a stillborn or deformed calf - and often we pick on God. Yet, considering how complex new life is, it's remarkable how rarely things go wrong. However, when things go right - with safe births, or when illness passes, we tend to congratulate ourselves, or thank our 'lucky stars'. Do you think God may have a hand in the good times which, moreoften than not, we fail to recognise?

Challenge: Over the next week, bring God into the minor successes in your daily life. When things go well, thank him! Even if you feel it's because of something you did, remember that all good things come from God! And remember to thank him at the end of the day if nothing went wrong. We have no idea how often God - or his angels - step in on our behalf.

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