My parents owned a dairy while I was growing up, and I did lots of jobs on the farm. I drove tractors and trucks, milked cows, and irrigated crops. My favorite job of all was feeding the baby calves. To me, that job was a slice of heaven. The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular, and the little calves were so cute. They became my pets, and even after they grew into cows and bulls, they would come when I called.
During the time when I was chief calf feeder, a cow had a difficult pregnancy, and my parents and I had to deliver the calf. It was a tremendous struggle, and when the calf finally made her appearance, we could immediately see what the problem had been—the calf was humungous! Looking at the baby, my mother exclaimed, “My word! That calf is a horse!”
The name stuck.
Horse was one of my favorite calves. When I went to feed her, she would caper around me, kicking up her heels with delight. When she was through eating, she would always lean against me and stretch her neck, begging to be scratched behind the ears. I really loved that silly calf. I thought she was terrific.
As time passed, Horse and her contemporaries grew from little babies into animals ready to be put on pasture. Although I knew it had to be done, I dreaded what was going to happen next. Before my calves could be released into the field, they had to be branded and dehorned.
Branding and dehorning is one of the nastiest jobs on a farm—but it has to be done. A cow with horns is a danger to other animals and to humans. And without a brand, an animal is a target for thieves.
The day Horse was branded, my job was to herd my calves one by one into the branding chute. I didn’t like it, but I knew that what was going to happen was essential for the safety of my animals. I knew that the momentary pain would help protect my pets for the rest of their lives; nevertheless, I felt like Judas when I put them into the chute. I deliberately kept back Horse. I just couldn’t make myself put her into the chute. As each calf was branded, Horse would nuzzle against my side, and I would scratch her behind the ears and speak softly to her. I told her that it would be over soon and that it was for her good. Eventually, Horse was the last calf in the pen. I reluctantly put her into the chute. Five minutes later, she was back with the other calves. And few days later, all of my pets were out on pasture. The pasture was a lovely place. It had lush, green grass, beautiful trees, and a peaceful lake. Because of their brands, my pets were able to wander freely and safely.
All of my calves recovered quickly, and they came as usual when I called—at least, all of them did but Horse. Whenever I came near, Horse would run away. I thought she would eventually get over it, but she never did. Even when she grew up and enjoyed her cushy life as a milk cow, she never forgave me. If she caught sight of me, she would run the other direction just as fast as she could.
I understand why Horse grew to hate me. In her eyes, I represented safety, and I betrayed her. She didn’t realize that the lavish lifestyle she was enjoying was because of the branding. And she didn’t know that part of the safety that surrounded her was because of the dehorning. All she knew was that she had trusted me to keep her safe, and instead of preventing her pain—I’d allowed it.
When I almost died from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and later, when I came down with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and was put into seven years of quarantine, I felt totally betrayed by God. I had trusted God. I had loved God. I had believed that God was on my side. Then my world fell to pieces. I knew that God was powerful enough that He could’ve kept me from harm, but He didn’t. I struggled with that knowledge, and for a while, I turned my back on the Lord. I didn’t want anything to do with a God who seemed cruel and two-faced.
One day in quarantine, I was stewing about my condition and the fickleness of God. I ranted, and raved, and made a big fuss. When I finally grew quiet and listened, I heard God speak. He simply said, “You’re acting like Horse.”
Blinking a little, I thought about my old pet. Even though I could’ve taken Horse away from the branding pen and refused to let her go through the pain, I allowed it because I knew it would lead to a better life for her. I knew that in the end, it would keep her from greater harm. I knew that it would allow her to fulfill her destiny. As I contemplated Horse’s reaction to me, and my reaction to God, I could see the similarities. I had to admit that God knew the future. God knew my destiny. God loved me. He wouldn’t allow anything bad to come into my life unless it was going to lead to something good in the end.
If Horse hadn’t gone through her five minutes of pain, she could’ve been injured, stolen, or even slaughtered on the black market. If I hadn’t gone through my years of illness and quarantine, I never would have written my books or become a blogger. I’ve learned that many times in life, I have to calm down, step back, and try to see the big picture. God isn’t weak, or mean, or careless, or brutal, or uncaring. I’ve learned that when something bad happens, it always—eventually—leads to something good. That’s the promise of Romans 8:28.
There are many things that I don’t understand about God, and faith, and life. There are some puzzles that I will probably never solve. But one thing that a cow named Horse taught me is that I don’t always know the big picture. What seems like betrayal can actually be protection. What seems like indifference can actually be love. And what seems like the worst thing in the world can actually be the key to unlocking destiny.
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.’” –Isaiah 55:8-9