Beyond Buckles and Banners
Not long ago one of our son's stock show friends asked me if we loved our daughter more than our son. We all laughed. Deep down, though, this question he jokingly asked has been a concern for me. Of course we do not!! However, I have wondered if from the outside looking in it might seem like we favor our daughter over our son. While she was having a fantastic last year and a half or so, our son has seemed to have nothing but bad luck in the stock show game.
I could go into all the details about what has happened over the last couple of years to cause our boy to have to drag around a couple of heifers he was frankly pretty embarrassed about (especially after about a decade of experience under his belt), but I will not bore anyone with that. His Dad and I have had so many conversations about what to do, what move to make next, what ties to break or not, who would be the best to help him succeed in his last 2 years of showing, and what route to take with his next project. We have stressed and fretted and I've shed some tears over what to do and what has transpired. We have watched him be disappointed and keep pushing anyway. We have watched him work cattle he knew would never amount to much in the ring just as if they were banner winners. It has pained us to know how hard he has worked for so little payback lately.
I know, though, on the outside all people have seen is his little sister winning like crazy with him holding her ribbons in the backdrop pictures, and maybe it does look like we love her more. Do we not do the same thing with God? Do we not look around sometimes at others' circumstances and convince ourselves other people are favored over us? We decide God is just not working in our lives the way he is others or maybe he does not love us quite as much. The thing is, we do not see all the behind-the-scenes work God is doing. All we can see, with our little self-absorbed human eyes, are the proverbial backdrop pictures in life. We see the social media pictures and the belt buckles and the banners. We cannot see some of the most important work God does on our hearts and we cannot fathom the way he loves each one of us so uniquely and so tailored to our own needs. I admit, in moments when I've been so upset over my son's losses, I could not see God's work in his life because all I really wanted for him was the buckle as proof. That is not how God works, though.
I watched my son's heifer getting prepped for the show ring yesterday. The breeder who is helping him now has always had a soft spot for our "Bub." As I watched yesterday I noticed Bub wasn't being asked to sit on the sidelines and watch a team of fitters get his calf ready - he was expected to jump in and help with his own heifer. I watched this breeder come over to Bub and explain to him exactly what to do and then actually put his hands over Bub's to show him the way the movement of his arm needed to happen in order to get the desired result with his heifer's hair. That is exactly how my son learns! When I expressed my appreciation for the teaching happening with my son this year, I was told, "Well, here in a couple of years he is going to be in here helping get other people's cattle ready and he needs to know how to do it!"
Next year is Bub's senior year. It is easy for the focus to be finally getting him a belt buckle or making sure he does well in the show ring to "end" his show career. The hard part for us humans sometimes is realizing God's focus is so far beyond what we can see. My son wants to be in the cattle business after High School, so he needs to know a lot more than how to set up a calf in a ring. What we have trouble understanding is when we are faced with circumstances which seem like God not showing us favor, it may just be that God is giving us the opportunity to learn from him so we can go forward with the work he wants us to do. In moments of deep disappointment it can sometimes be hard to find God, but if we could only see beyond the "show ring" of life, we would see those moments are when he actually has his hands over ours, teaching us how to move exactly like him. He is getting us ready for things only he can see over the horizon. Things that are even bigger and more important than buckles and banners and backdrops.