The gates swing open simultaneously and both animals erupt from the chutes. One is a calf, desperate for freedom. The other is a horse and rider, bent on stopping that calf as quickly as possible. Calf roping. It’s one of the popular events at all rodeos. Everyone cheers for the cowboy, especially when the loudspeaker blares out a good time, perhaps one that puts him in the running for the prize.
I’ve watched calf roping a number of times and it always makes me feel a little sorry for the calf. He’s frantic to escape but you know it’s not going to happen. When that lariat catches him he’s jerked off his feet and then thrown to the ground as the cowboy cinches his feet tight. He can’t move, can only lie there helplessly looking up into the eyes of a man who is now totally in control. This particular sport originated during branding season on ranches across North America. The calves would be rounded up, roped and put helplessly on the ground and held there while a cowboy applied the brand. The branding was the purpose for the whole procedure. It was a clear statement to all. This animal is owned.
Some time ago my husband used this as an illustration in a Sunday sermon. He was talking about Saul, a Pharisee and man of authority, a man who was passionate about stopping a movement he believed was a threat to his way of life and to his society. He was very good at it, good at hunting down and imprisoning the followers of the Christ, until the day when he was slammed to the ground by the grace of that same God. I imagine Paul laying there helplessly, staring up into that bright light as he asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
When Jesus revealed himself to Paul and told him what he was to do next, there was no argument. The man who had always given the orders obeyed without question. It was clear that God was making a statement. You, Saul, now belong to me; you will now be Paul, my apostle.
We don’t like being slammed to the ground like a calf being roped. The process of branding isn’t pleasant. But often it is necessary. Like those calves making a break for what they believe is freedom, we’re often streaking toward an end that isn’t in our best interests. Like Saul, we are throwing all our energy and passion into endeavors that will only leave us empty and alone. Success or money or fame or whatever the goal, it will never deliver what we really need. We all need to be owned by a loving God whose grace and mercy are always available and free. We all need what only He can give us.
We don’t like that concept. Our independent spirit rejects the idea of being controlled, of being owned. But there is no avoiding it. Like the famous singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan sang, “You're gonna have to serve somebody - it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.”
What about you? Have you been roped and branded yet?
Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife, mother of three adult daughters and occasionally wears a cowboy hat. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Her short story, An Unexpected Glory won a Word Award in June 2014. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia’s Website