It all began so nonchalantly; take a short ride for a random errand at the family farm. Little did I know my decision to come along that day would change my summer the moment my foot stepped out of the truck.
Across from the equipment barn where we parked, my gaze was captured by a small barnyard bovine bull. The calf was born blind and rejected by his mother and the rest of his herd. His only chance of survival was to separate him from the others, tube feed him since he would not take a bottle and give him medicine to help him recover from his illness. Alone, helpless, yet he looked hopeful… I could relate to him on so many levels and instantaneously he had my heart as well.
He laid in the straw without any effort to move as I approached him. Through the blindness in his eye I could see this small creature was quite ill, probably depressed from rejection, and he was a long shot of making it on the farm. I also saw through all his setbacks, was his need to be loved despite it all. I am not a cow whisperer by any means, in fact I have absolutely no idea when it comes to bovines what to do, but it made sense to me to add nurturing to his treatment regiment. So with the permission of my father-in-law, I embarked on bovine life completely naive to the fact this would challenge every muscle in my body, my heart’s capability to love in the letting go, and patience to a 10th degree.
He fondly became known as “Norman” and quickly began to react to my voice and his name. Twice a day I would assist in his tube feedings, then I would massage his joints, speak softly to him as I scratched over his jaw and neck, pick him up and walk him around and when his body because too tired to continue, I would bed him down in fresh straw. As I would clean up his area and give him snuggles, I prayed for a miracle. In part because he needed a miracle in order to survive, but I needed a miracle too. We both craved not to be alone in our season of healing.
For me, I had expected this year to be quite a bit different than what it was shaping out to be. New hopes and new beginnings that were set into motion last year, seemed to have gone stagnant now. Despite anticipating it could still take a bit, it was crushing my waiting season was not over yet. So standing in the poo covered straw, me and Norman became bonded in a prayer to accept God’s plan over our life and heal us through the heartache.
Each day as I picked up Norman to do his walking exercises, I was reminded just how often I was like this bull calf. Mostly agreeable, but often streaks of stubbornness would set me back and God would have to scoop me up out of my mess and place my shaky feet on solid ground and coax me to follow His voice so I could have comfort and rest. Why is trusting a faithful God so difficult for me at times? Oh yeah, I like to be the one in control…
The funniest epiphany to me however was teaching this little bull how to bottle feed. How hard can it be to teach a calf to bottle feed right? Suckling after all is the most natural instinct all animals are born with. Umm –wrong. I would stand over this bull crouched down, sweating from the high temperatures of summer with a bottle full of warm nutrients he needed, yet he firmly rejected. Day after day for what seemed like hours each time, it was a battle of the wills to get Norman to open his mouth and stop using his tongue to block the bottle nipple so he could suck the milk replacement down. Finally one especially warm morning with my forehead pressed firmly to his and whispering (somewhat) encouraging ultimatums, he yielded to me. He relaxed just enough, tilted his head up and began to guzzle the warm milk. His eyes grew big as if to say – “hey this stuff taste amazing, how come you have been giving it to me through a tube this whole time?” I am convinced the phrase “bull-headed” was created by a farmer who had to bottle feed a bull.
But honestly, how often right in front of me is exactly what I need? There are promises written over my life in the Word, yet I disbelieve at times. In all my false wisdom and pride, I stiffen my soul to correction necessary for my strengthening and growth. How many times do I instead fight the very thing that is good for me just because it is different than I expected or harder than I want the situation to be? I believe Jesus would agree it seems like it takes me quite a while to stop fighting before I yield to His way and I walk into the benefiting promises over my life.
Standing in the straw and um, “sweet” aroma of this little calf, I for a moment saw myself through what is my best guess of God’s perspective. Inept in the matter, a strong bull-headed personality and all the determination in the world to have my own way. My Heavenly Father is right there to take care of me and to give me exactly what I need, but I am uncooperative to His way. More times than I care to admit, I find myself exhausted by situations I am desperately trying to control when all I have to do is tilt my head up and concede my will to His.
Thankfully, my Father is patient and woos my heart gently. He guides me to Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I drink in these words over and over again and feel the weight of my disappointment lift.
There is a purpose in this process.
There is a reason I am here.
Jesus has a plan for what I see as a setback. He sees it as an opportunity for a breakthrough.
Stumbling over myself in a season of waiting, I make matters worse by trying to control the situation. What I miss by doing this however is the sweet rest there is in the safety of Jesus presence while He works out His plan. There are going to be hard times in life. It is not supposed to be fun because what is does is provides us with a chance to choose hope in the hurt. It took some time, but now I can be eager in a heartbreak because it motivates me to press closer to the One who can redeem me from my pride lying to me that I have everything under control and instead witness miracles being orchestrated by His hand.
It takes some audacity to relinquish control of hurt and disappointment, but in that full release there is a new beauty revealed about our future. In fact there becomes a giddiness stirred in the heart because you know your prayers are meager to His ultimate plan which surpass your greatest hope.
“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
If you feel defeated today, may I encourage you to be brave and follow God’s lead? He has a very specific plan for you and works all things for good.