There is little doubt that the writer of the book of Genesis is remembered for such statements as this. But later on, that same writer also penned these words about cattle: “Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers…” (Genesis 46:34).
These days, his latter words words increasingly resonate with me. They certainly did a few days ago. You see…
Not far from where we live, a man and his wife raise beef cattle. Every day as I take my morning walk, I pass by their three pastures containing numerous Black Angus cows, steers, heifers, and calves. Each of these enclosures also contains at least one prized bull. Let me tell you, these latter are all especially impressive specimens!
Deriving from cattle native to the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in north-eastern Scotland, Angus (officially Aberdeen) cattle comprise a breed of livestock dating back to at least the sixteenth century. While the Angus is technically considered a breed of small beef cattle, bulls can easily reach 1800-1900 pounds, occasionally even topping one ton! The three specimens I am referring to above are easily this size.
Not surprisingly, the calves born to them and their various consorts this past spring are all now growing very fast. With each passing day, these calves gain more and more weight, as well as more and more coordination. They can regularly be viewed sleeping, suckling, eating, and many times, just plain frolicking. Indeed, life for them appears to be an endless cycle of fun and games, not unlike that of human children.
As they frolic, the games they play often mimic the activities of their adult companions within the herd. Thus, it is not uncommon to see them undertaking gestures reflective of their parents and grandparents. This is particularly true with regard to the young males. Many a time, as I have walked by, I have seen young bulls pawing the ground and butting heads with one another, foreshadowing days to come when they will vie in earnest for a place in the hierarchy of the herd. For them, “bull-headedness” is a genuine virtue!
I must admit, however, that I was not prepared for what I encountered recently when I topped the hill adjacent to one such pasture. For there, in full display in all of his grandeur, was one of the three majestic bulls, standing next to the fence and looking out over his realm. The look on his face was one of utter contentment mixed with complete confidence, as he appeared to gaze satisfactorily at the herd over which he, and he alone, reigned supreme.
Several things were immediately evident to me as I observed this young protégé staring up at his idol. First and foremost, it was evident that he absolutely adored the massive male that stood before him. No doubt, in his own way, he imagined what it would be like to one day become such a great bull himself. The words to Harry Chafin's song, Cat's in the Cradle, came to my mind: “I'm gonna be like him; yeah, you know I'm gonna be like him!”
Second, he obviously had a long way to go before this happened. I would estimate his own current weight at a mere 200 or so pounds, easily putting him some 1600 pounds shy of his mark.
Despite this, he had a clear example of bovine masculinity standing before him. Thus, third, if he followed the example laid down before him by his admirable forebear (in this case, very likely his own father), he would almost certainly attain the status he desired one day!
As I made my way on down the road, I pondered what all this sight had to teach me. In so doing, I soon realized just how relevant this experience was to my own life. To begin with, this was not the first time I had observed herds of cattle on a daily basis.
My first experiences with bulls, cows, steers, heifers, calves, and the like came some fifty years ago when I first roamed the haunts of those farms belonging to my own father and grandfather. These men, too, raised beef cattle; and many of the things I have seen as of late reflect the things I first saw back in the day under their influence.
This is when it hit me. There had once been a time when I too stood beneath and behind these men and marveled at their great size and strength. In that day, I too had held these men in high esteem. In my own way, I had idolized them. Accordingly, I had looked forward to the day when I would grow up and emulate them. What is more, as I grew older, I even dared to dream that I might somehow honor them by one day surpassing them - in where all I went, in who all I met, and in what all I did.
Of course, at this point, as they say, “What it is is what it is.” So, all I can hope is that my life’s travels, my life’s associations, and my life’s accomplishments, as meager as they all have been, have nonetheless somehow brought such honor to those who came before me as they each deserve.
But this was not all that hit me. For I soon realized that the scene that I had just observed had a two-fold application. In the first sense, I was the calf looking ever so adoringly at his father. In the second sense, I was the bull standing flamboyantly before his offspring!
You see, at his point in my life, I am no longer the one looking up at a father and grandfather. Instead, I am the grandfather and the father that others are looking up to! As that thought sank in, I realized what an awesome notion it was! And what an awesome responsibility; for the Lord has now seen fit to bless me with two grown sons and a grown son-in-law, who collectively have now given me seven grandsons!
While I do not necessarily pretend to believe that my two grown sons and son-in-law always stand behind me and necessarily admire my station in life, I do recognize that it is a different matter altogether with regard to my seven grandsons. Most assuredly, these young bulls are all observing me ever so carefully and in every aspect of my being.
And here is the kicker… My strong suspicion is that they are each inculcating values as they do! Every time they look at me, even if they do not yet realize it, they are making critical decisions about what is and is not admirable in their grandfather!
In light of this, oh, how I pray that I may be found a worthy role-model for them to follow! May they look at me with the same admiration with which I once looked at those who stood before me. May I inspire them just as I was once inspired by others!
In all of this, of course, I am reminded that there is One Other,` Who, alone, stands above and beyond me, and Whose image, alone, is worthy of emulation. He, of course, is my Heavenly Father. As admirable as it is for me to emulate and glorify my earthly father(s), how much more so is it for me to honor my Heavenly Father?!
The Apostle Paul once told the Corinthian Christians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
I trust others, especially my chiIdren and grandchildren, will see me attempting to do just this. I pray that they will see me being a Godly man by following the example of Jesus Christ; and that they themselves will then be influenced by that very notion. Should they then also choose to follow my example and live their own lives in such a way that God will be glorified, then I will be honored. For in such a case, my own life will have had meaning beyond which I ever thought possible.
NOTES ON PICTURE:
In the above picture, the calf appears much larger than he actually was. This is because he is not only behind the bull, but closer in the foreground to where I was standing when I took the picture. Had he have been standing directly beside the bull, the considerable size difference would have been readily apparent. also, when I first caught sight of them, the calf was staring at the bull, even as the bull was beholding his herd. By the time I pulled up my phone, however, they had both turned their heads to look at me.