My first calf - Kenny Hanna

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, will offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

When you are from a farm, there is something special about the first livestock that you ever own, your first pet lamb, first ewe, pony or cow. For me, it was my first calf.

It was my birthday, I was in my early teens and I was in the dark about the whole thing, only to trudge home from school one day to hear a bawing in the calf house. On and on and on it went. I asked my mum what the racket was and she told me.

“It’s for your birthday; your granda bought it for you,” she explained.

I can’t remember whether I actually took time to rip off my uniform as I bounded out to the shed, but there it was: a Black-Whitehead heifer. Still on milk and bawing to be fed. A good square calf, I noticed. In the days before narrow-rumped Holsteins spoiled the dropped calf trade, this was a strong, well-made heifer. And like the proverbial cow, I was ‘over the moon’.

Life is full of surprises, unexpected gifts and special events that make lasting impressions; like my experience finding my first calf in the calf house. As you can probably tell, to me this gift was incredible, unexpected and so appreciated, that I still remember it so fondly.

But I want to share something with you that is much more important than a budding young farmer’s first foray into livestock. It is another gift, the gift of eternal life that Jesus offers us.

What’s vital to know about this eternal life is its quantity and its quality. In terms of its quantity - think life with God, our Creator, which lasts forever. In terms of its quality - think the best ever brimming-over life-in-all-its-fullness life. Jesus explains it like this, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

We may think that our lives are already pretty good, so why do I need this eternal life? When things are going well, we hardly stop to think about such matters. But when things are not so good, when the bank is putting the pressure on, when there’s illness in the family, when the disappointments mount up, we realise that things in our world are just not right.

Without the life that Jesus brings as our Saviour we have no access to this eternal life, for we are spiritually dead. In the Bible, which is God’s word, He explains that ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the human race has been cut off from Him, both by Adam’s original sin and our own rebellious hearts, wanting to go our own way, not God’s.

The good news is that if we will humble ourselves and ask Jesus, He will give us His new life. For as it is written in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”

There is something special about the first livestock that you ever own, but it is the new life that Jesus offers that will shape, not just our farming lives, but our forever lives too.

Rev. Kenny Hanna is minister of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church and grew up on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne.

If you would like to find out more about this ‘new creation’ life that only Jesus can bring, email khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call 028 9753 1234.