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A Bovine Revelation

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The Lord speaks to us sometimes in the most unlikely of ways.
 
For me, it was through a cow. True story. 
 
I was driving down the highway to pick my daughter up from school on a Friday afternoon a couple of months ago, and it was lightly raining. It was raining that misty, annoying kind of rain…so barely a rain at all that you hardly needed your windshield wipers, but present enough that if you didn’t turn them on, your windshield would turn into the same blurry confusion that a Monet painting offers when viewed close-up.
 
I approached a large livestock trailer on the freeway, and as I began to pass it, marveled to see that it was full of cows. Big, black-and-white cows. I’ve always loved cows, and childlike wonder always fills me when I see a large metal box transporting them on open roads: the way they gracefully withstand the movement, as if they were created with the knowledge of how to endure it.
 
I slowed my pace and drove alongside the trailer, noticing that one of the cows was sticking its muzzle out of an opening in the side of the trailer, licking at the mist in the air.  Licking, licking, licking.
 
I was struck with sadness.
 
The cow, at least to my logical mind, was thirsty. It was so desperate that it was licking the scant rain to quench its thirst. My heart broke for the poor creature. I knew that the cow’s thirst could never be sated by that barely-there rain.
 
My first thought was, “Lord, please don’t let this cow die thirsty”. To my mind, the trailer was bound for a slaughterhouse, with a thirsty cow on board. What a horrible fate, to die thirsty.
 
In truth, I didn’t know where those cows were headed. But God constructed a story in my mind to teach me a lesson, to speak to my heart, to convict and inspire me. All I could think was, “This poor cow is going to die thirsty.” I was in tears, watching this poor creature lick the rain, in a futile attempt to quench its need for water.
 
It was in that moment that I thought about the lost…the lost human souls in the world who don’t know Jesus.
 
Just as that cow could never quench its thirst by licking the rain (but believing that it could), lost human souls can never quench their desire for true peace or happiness in the promise of everlasting life by building or fortifying their joy with the superficial, empty pieces of temporal and temporary happiness that the world supplies.
 
I wept for the perceived plight of the cow, and I wept even harder thinking about the larger spiritual implications for the human lost. I didn’t want that sweet creature to die thirsty. But on a broader scale, I didn’t want humanity to die lost.
 
But…the Bible reminds us so many times that Jesus loves the lost, the thirsty.
 
The word “water” is mentioned 722 times in the Bible. In fact, the Bible essentially begins and ends with the mention of water.
 
Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
 
Revelations 22:17 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
 
Water matters. Water is crucial to our lives for our health, our hygiene, to nourish our crops and provides a home to creatures that sustain us. Water is essential to our physical lives in innumerable ways, and is arguably the most critical substance we take into our bodies. Humans can survive between one to two months without food, but only three days without water. Water matters.
 
Even Jesus suffered physical thirst. When He was on the cross, he said “I am thirsty”, as told to us in John 19:28.
After his thirst was eventually quenched, it was then that he uttered, “It is finished”. Jesus needed His thirst to be sated, that His voice would be strong and clear when He uttered His last words in His earthly form. “It is finished.” Even Jesus needed the relief that water brings.
 
But living water. That’s a whole different kind of water. Despite water being mentioned so many times in the Bible, Jesus Himself only mentions “living water” twice.
 
In John 4:10-14, Jesus encounters the woman at the well.    
 
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
Later, John 7:38-39 tells us: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’”
 
Jesus’ reference to the living water represents the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers and seals them for salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). The partaking of the living water has saving power…eternal saving power that supersedes the physical, emotional, financial, social or other temporary thirst that we endure in this world. All we have to do is drink.
 
Back to the cow…
 
As I continued to ponder the cow during my drive, in the flesh I determined that I could never eat beef again.
 
Let me be clear…I am an omnivore. I enjoy a good steak, cooked rare, with a baked potato on the side. I eat meat. I was born in the north, raised in the south. I am a meat-eater, through and through. But that day, in the throes of my sadness for that one thirsty animal, I couldn’t imagine ever eating a steak again. I was convinced that my days of sitting at Texas Roadhouse, quipping to the waitress to “knock the horns off and bring it to the table” were over. In that moment, I was going full vegan.
 
I continued driving, and my vegan resolve began to settle into my spirit. I called my eldest daughter and told her about my revelation and new dietary lifestyle. My daughter promptly replied, “I mean, you could eat bad cows, right?”
 
That gave me pause. I would eat the bad cows. Wouldn’t it be nice if when we walked through the deli, “mean” beef was labeled as such:
 
Here Lies Hank, Black Angus
2018-2021
Bit the farmer’s kids. Terrorized the neighbors. Relentless escape artist.
 
That cow? I’d eat that cow. I can hear myself: “Just knock the horns off and bring him to the table.”
 
In contrast, what if, when perusing the beef counter, I came upon this label:
 
Here Lies Betsy, Brahman
2019-2021
Loved long walks in the sunshine, snacking on dandelions and cuddling.
 
I wouldn’t dream of eating sweet Betsy. Who could consume such a lovely creature?
 
As my thoughts of the good cow/bad cow dining dilemma continued, I was led yet again down another path of thought:
 
“What if Jesus only saved the “good” humans?”
 
What if God’s love and grace and mercy were only available to those who were good? Inasmuch as we are flawed creatures at best, we would all fail at being “good”. It isn’t our inherent nature to be good, as we are all born into sin. None among us could ever deserve or earn our salvation. But in God’s infinite love and goodness, He sent His son to pay the ransom for our sin. Praise God that eternal life is available to us all, that we aren’t judged based solely on our good deeds.
 
To some, cows are little more than a source of sustenance, or perhaps a luxe armchair. But to me, that one cow, that one day, represented so much more. The thirst of one animal, in one moment, reminded me of the very real plight of the lost. Thirsting, thirsting, thirsting…futilely seeking satisfaction from what their immediate environment has to offer. While it is a fruitless endeavor, at some point in our lives (or many points in our lives), we become distracted by the goings-on of world, and we forget about the Living Water…the only water that can truly, beautifully and eternally save and sustain us.
 
We can either hope that the world can satisfy us, or have faith that Jesus will. Let’s choose faith.
 
** We encourage you to watch, as Aimee tells this story in her “Ask Aimee” vlog,
by clicking the picture on the left below **

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