What does it mean to “have”? I know, this sounds a bit reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s famous confusion over the definition of “is,” but I’m serious. When I say, “I have a Toyota Corolla,” what precisely does that mean. More specifically, I question this sentence: “I have two pigs.”
Yesterday, Penny and I traveled all the way to Springfield, Missouri to pick up our two pigs. These weren’t just any old pigs. They’re Red Wattle pigs. I could have gone to the local auction house and bought Chester Whites or Yorkshires, but all the Red Wattles seem to live three hours away from Kansas City.
When we got them home, somebody (who will remain nameless but he’s typing right now) thought it would be safe to let the little guys out of their traveling cage to stretch their legs. They paused for somewhere around three seconds before heading across our front yard and disappearing into the woods. Four and a half hours later, after spending all of that time with a revolving cast of characters and two dogs traipsing about and attempting to recapture the due, I collapsed inside the house, defeated by a couple of would-be porkers.
Penny and I left the outside door to our bedroom open for a little while before going to sleep. We hadn’t been in the room more than ten minutes before I heard a very distinct grunting outside. One of the pigs decided to brave the yard and eat the corn we’d put out for him. Clad in pj’s and a robe, I tried to lure him in, but he ignored me, disappearing back into the woods and grunting along with his brother.
This morning, Penny told me that a pig–presumably the same brave one–stood beside her as she hung clothes on the line. I have hope that the boys will decide that we’re not so terrible and return to the more civilized climes.
What, then, does it mean when I say, “I have two pigs.” Do I really possess them? Quite obviously it means more than claiming I have four pigs, but such a statement doesn’t mean as much as we’d like to think it does. I could carefully feed and shelter these two pigs until they’re each tipping the scale at some 250 pounds. Then I could lose them to a disease. They could dive out of the truck as we head for the processor. Coyotes could hold a convention and eat my pork chops. They could get wind of my plans for them and decide to hoof it back to Springfield. In short, saying that “I have” something just means that I have a tentative grasp on it right now.
I’m reminded of the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12:15-21. “You fool!” God seems to be saying to me as I stumble through the briars and brush chasing a snort here and a footprint there. Or maybe I should be worried about storing up treasure here on earth where coyote and H1N1 destroy (Matthew 16:19-21).
As I contemplate this situation, I think of the other things I have: a good job, a marvelous wife, four talented kids, a paid-off car, good health. Any of those things can be plucked out from within my grasp in a moment. They can run off just as quickly as my pigs did yesterday.