Since early childhood, my family has had a friend who owns a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. I have memories of pulling on an old pair of jeans, boots, and gloves in preparation for a day riding around in his Ford pickup. We would herd cattle and occasionally I’d find an opportunity to get out and climb two-story mounds of manure while he worked. (After you get over the smell, you’d be surprised how much fun a kid can have in a pile of poop.)
On one occasion, as I stood at the summit of Dung Mountain, I watched as our family friend seared steer after steer with a branding iron. This troubled me.
“Doesn’t that hurt the cows?” I asked him.
“It’s a little painful for a minute, but it protects them. It lets others know who they belong to.”
In less than two months, this year has provided a roller coaster of changes that has left me with a searing pain inside. I haven’t quite been able to put a finger on why everything has happened the way it has but life has twisted and turned in ways that I never expected. There are distractions, comforts, and relationships that have been unmistakably stripped away from me by the Lord and, even if it is for my own good, that knowledge doesn’t seem to make it hurt less.
I realize what is happening. God has branded me. I belong to Him. Although, unlike the rancher, He has no plans to send me down the road to the slaughterhouse. He has plans to see me prosper and to give me a hope and a future. In order to accomplish that, though, I have to sacrifice what the flesh wants sometimes and it doesn’t feel so good at the moment.
God doesn’t hate complacent people. Now as for complacency itself, I’m guessing that’s pretty high on the list of things He despises. Granted, Christ is my Savior and I’m going to Heaven and that is awesome. However, if I want to truly give Him my life to mold and use, it’s not enough. I must run from complacency.
Last year, I considered getting a tattoo with the Howard family motto, which dates back several centuries. It states “Sola Virtus Invicta” or “Bravery Alone is Invincible.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I just didn’t feel like it fit me. This realization caused me to become disappointed in myself and the man that I have become.
Am I kind? Sure.
Brave? That’s not something I felt could be said of me.
To the men: God is calling us now more than ever to live a courageous life. I don’t know about you but I want to live a life of bravery. The Lord has showed me recently true bravery is found in the man that cleaves to the Word of God on a daily basis in every situation. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you have that kind of strength just because you have said the sinner’s prayer.
God’s work in you is not finished. If you want to see His power work through your life, it’s time to pursue Him with all your might. It’s time to go to war by fervently seeking God in a way that you never have. If you want to get married, go to war now for your future wife and for your children. Go to war now for the lives of the people that God wants to touch through you.
As for the fairer gender–ladies, God is just as jealous for your time as He is for ours. Seek Him more fervently than you ever have and He will answer.
A lot us are running around on the ranch just satisfied to be there. Days easily turn into weeks turn into months turn into years that we avoid truly being marked by the hand of God because we’re afraid of the discomfort it’s going to cause. The problem is the Enemy is coming for you, often hidden or disguised. He will steal. He will kill. He will destroy.
If you haven’t fully submitted to the brand of God on your life, now is the time. Will you wait until disappointment sets in before you run after Him? There may be some initial discomfort, but you will be left with a brand from the only Rancher that matters. It will mark your life as one that is owned by the Almighty God.
*Photo credit: dostran