What This Earth Loses

"Sheep may safely graze" photo by shetland-sheep.org


We lost another silkie hen today. Nicholas said it looked as if she went to sleep beside the grain pan, but she was cold when he touched her. That is four out of six; a friend thinks, as I do, that there was something wrong genetically with that clutch. We will see if the two survivors make it through the winter. I don’t blame the breeder. It may have been something new for her, too, especially if there had been some inbreeding. Suddenly a double recessive fault can show up. I had wanted the silkies for both breeding and brooding, but if these two survive, they will not be bred.

Nicholas was melancholy about it all day, and I was subdued as well. I’ve lost a lot of young animals over the shepherding years, and I’ve lost others to storms, old age, illness and predators. It’s the way it goes on the farm. We do the best we can, but there are so many factors of uncertainty that we can never do it all perfectly.

This is what I find reassuring: The Great Creator of this universe did not intend to lose any of His creation. While the molecules and atoms of our substance go back to whence they came, the life He puts into all His creatures will return to Him. While as Christians we believe that we humans, made in His image, will have a sense of Being in life after death, we can also be assured that the wee creatures are loved by Him and are of Him. C.S. Lewis wrote of this – that the animals we called friends, who were loved by us, will have their Being in the Creator, too. So when we lose these sweet little friends, and even when the life of a farm animal is sacrificed to feed us, God is watching over them, and takes back the essence of their being.

At the last day, when our Lord shall stand upon this earth, and make it over to the perfection God intended – the new heaven above, and the new earth under our feet – all that we have known and loved, companion animals, farm animals and even the trees and flowers that enriched our lives, will be there, too.

I hope this is a comfort to others as it is to me.

"Peaceable Kingdom" by Edward Hicks

A leopard with a harmless kid lay down

And not one savage beast was seen to frown

The wolf did with the lamb can dwell in peace

His grim carnivorous nature there did cease

The lion with the fatling fawn did move

And a little child was leading them in love
Long ago there was a young painter

Who had a dream that every creature came

And stood assembled by his side

And he painted the sight that had sweetened his night

For the one hundred times before he died

A kid lion and a snake and a child

Wide-eyed and formal and smiling like the sun had stopped

And time had ceased to move

And the wolf and the lamb

Came and ate from his hand

And a man-child was leading them in love
Friend have you seen all the lines and the spaces

The colors that the old painter sees

In the peaceable kingdom that shines in the faces

Of people from more gentle times than these
I find myself adrift these days

An endless maze of ends and ways

And worlds seem so crazy to be here

But look away look away

Back or forward from today

To the visions of either fools or seers
Oh my friend have you seen all the lines and the spaces

The colors that the old painter sees

In the peaceable kingdom that shines in the faces

Of people from more gentle times than these
Such a beautiful place

Full of joy full of grace

It was bathed in a saintly yellow light

To what learning to know that such things can’t be so

He could only believe that they might
Oh my friend have you seen all the lines and the spaces

The colors that the old painter sees

In the peaceable kingdom that shines in the faces

Of people from more gentle times than these
Friend have you seen all the lines and the spaces

The colors that the young painter sees

In the peaceable kingdom that shines in the faces

Of people from more gentle times than these

(Lyrics by Billy Gilman; I would have posted the link, but the publisher’s site was quite awkward and horrible with advertising things like gambling, quite out of keeping with The Quaker Painter, Edward Hicks. So, Billy, I apologize, and I hope you understand.)


6 thoughts on “What This Earth Loses

  1. “I know of no reason why I should not look for the animals to rise again, in the same sense in which I hope myself to rise again–which is, to reappear, clothed with another and better form of life than before. If the Father will raise His children, why should He not also raise those whom He has taught His little ones to love?

    “Love is the one bond of the universe, the heart of God, the life of His children: if animals can be loved, they are lovable; if they can love, they are yet more plainly lovable: love is eternal; how then should its object perish? Must the love live on forever without its object? or, worse still, must the love die with its object, and be eternal no more than it?

    “Is not our love to the animals a precious variety of love? And if God gave the creatures to us, that a new phase of love might be born in us toward another kind of life from the same fountain, why should the new life be more perishing than the new love?

    “Can you imagine that, if, hereafter, one of God’s little ones were to ask Him to give again one of the earth’s old loves–kitten, or pony, or squirrel, or dog, which He had taken from him, the Father would say no? If the thing was so good that God made it for and gave it to the child at first who never asked for it, why should He not give it again to the child who prays for it because the Father had made him love it? What a child may ask for, the Father will keep ready.”

    George MacDonald, Life Essential: The Hope of the Universe,

  2. Magdalena,

    This is a profoundly beautiful and truthful post! As the human half of a guide dog team, who has had to retire three of these loving creatures (to foster homes when the season of their guiding life is complete), i am heartened by God’s promises concerning His creation. in Gen 9: 4-5, (if I remember my verses properly), God plainly states that ALL living creatures will be called to give account on the Last day; I have also heard the teaching of all things being made new post Second Advent – only in SDA circles, sadly never in Anglican settings. Indeed, Evangelical Anglicans reject and turn away from these notions. We who have spent years closely working with God’s animal creation, be we farmer or guide dog owner, know the actual truth of it. All my little ones will be there; my two boys, my two girls, (and any future guide dogs to come), as will every creature that has fallen extinct to the hand of man.

    I have mourned the separation between myself and the last three, especially my last little one, Zenia. My husband’s pet dog mourned for her also when she was retired last year (we have no room to keep retired guide dogs with us – tiny handkerchief urban back garden. He cried for her for a week, howling a howl I have never heard from a dog before; a low, rolling mournful sob that could not be consoled. I also dreamt of my little Zen after she left for months; terrible dreams that she was in distress or ill/close to death. Needless to say, once we sign the paperwork retiring them, we can find nothing out about their welfare, as we have turned over our custody.

    going through a guide dog retirement is like being forced to disolve a marriage; the bond between guide dog and guide dog handler is almost unique; we trust them with our lives every single day, and though they are working dogs, many of us fall headlong for them, loving them with our whole hearts. This might sound gushing and even inappropriate, but any owner of guide or other service dog will understand.

    Praise God for His loving mercy!!



    • I have often dreamed of animals who are gone. It is a comfort to think that the little life that has ended is gathered up again. It is not outside Anglican theology – it is part of our Celtic heritage – and certainly it is a deepseated Orthodox belief that all of creation will know the New Jerusalem.

  3. I also am comforted to think of the eternal nature of life as we live with the sometimes short lives of “our” creatures.
    Our original flock of 29 laying chickens has in under 3 years diminished to 7 hens and one rooster.
    One fierce attack rooster was dispatched to the stew pot, one hen succumbed to an unknown illness. The rest have gone to predators. Eleven were massacred one hideous day by a pair of visiting dogs, which made me furious.
    Those dogs will not be visiting here again.
    The other hens have been taken, one by one, by foxes and the coyotes who live up on the ridge west of us. Oddly I don’t really mind the ones the foxes and coyotes get. The foxes are pretty little things, and the coyotes nightly song is so beautiful. I feel that their families need to make a living just as much as we do.
    Unlike those dogs, the foxes and coyotes here do not launch a bloody massacre for sport. They have seldom come down here to the valley at all. When they have they’ve neatly snatched a slow-moving hen and taken it home for supper.
    Our own well fed dogs are oblivious to the chicken flocks, and will lay in the sun with hens free-ranging all around them.

    It has gradually dawned on me that I don’t have to understand the ways of nature entirely. It is more important for me tolearn to be accepting of what I don’t understand.
    Life on a smallholding is full of lessons, and the ones we want are not always the same as the ones we need.

    It comforts me greatly to feel there’s a plan and purpose behind even the parts of life I don’t like.

  4. Thanks for writing this piece.

    I also take great comfort in the more literal translation of Psalm 36 from the ESV

    “your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord”.

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