Taming the Bull



It was the Summer between my Sophomore and Junior year in college. I had stayed on campus that Summer to work out with my fellow teammates on the College Tennis Team. Our coach had a local farm just miles from the campus in Wingate, NC, so he took us out to the farm one day to do what he called “a little extra work.” So, off to the farm we went, one hot summer afternoon. It was just myself and one other player on the team who went that day.

As soon as we got to the farm, our coach led us down a long dusty, gravel road toward a barn and a large fenced-in pasture. We noticed there in the field all alone, sat one large bull, complete with large horns, and weighing in at about 2,500 lbs. Our coach spoke not a word as he walked calmly into the edge of the woods just outside the fence, tore off two switches from a bush and handed them to us. As he placed the switches in our hands, he looked us dead in the eye, then pointed toward the bull and said, “Now get out in that field and corral that bull into this barn stall.”

As he began to open the gate, we alarmingly asked, “How are we supposed to get that bull into this stall with just these switches!? Don’t you have a gun or at least a steel bat or something!?” He chuckled a bit, and responded, “You’ll figure it out. Now watch out, because he’s mean and ornery!” He opened the gate and pushed us into the pasture. I’d been in fields with cows many times before, but I’d never been asked to corral a 2,500 lb bull with only a switch!

We walked slowly and sheepishly down the pasture. It was a minefield of cow patties, flies, and fear. There sat that bull, over in the corner eating grass. As we got closer, I served as the decoy, making sure the bull kept his eyes on me while my teammate went around behind the bull to give the first swat. After that, we didn’t have a plan, other than to pray we died quickly and without pain. My friend maneuvered in behind the bull beautifully, reared back his switch, and then “Swat!” right across the rear of that bull! That bull jumped forward angrily. He began to shake his head, snort, and positioned himself to charge.

The next several moments were filled with laughter, tension, dodging, sprinting, back-peddling, swatting, screaming, and my heart beating a thousand times a minute. Somehow, when it was all over, that bull was banging into that stall. We had done it! Our coach then turned to us and fittingly said, “See, best footwork drill you ever had!” But I learned something more than footwork in that pasture with that bull that day.

In the Bible, James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Winning battles is rarely about who is the loudest or presents the most fearsome front. It’s really about courage, perseverance, and staying the course, even when things get difficult. Just ask a little kid named David who took down a giant named Goliath.

That bull presented a very fearsome front to us that day. He put on a big show and he tried to back us down at the beginning. He waved his head, he charged us, snorted at us, even grazed us a few times. But we never backed down. We stayed the course, remained steadfast, and persevered. Eventually, that bull got the idea that we weren’t going anywhere, we weren’t backing down, and with each skirmish our fears actually subsided. Eventually, he lost the power of fear and intimidation over us, wore himself out, and walked himself into the stall. Perseverance and endurance won the battle for us that day. Of course, our coach knew this as well. He had already tamed the bull many times before. But he also knew that in order for us to be better, we had to learn it ourselves by meeting the bull face to face. Later we learned he was right along the edge of the pasture the whole time, ready to intervene.

On the drive back, he asked us if we had known what was going to happen if we’d have still come out to the farm. We replied, “Of course not, but looking back, with all that we learned through this, in the joy, the tension, and the struggle, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.” We had a testimony for a lifetime.

I’m not sure what battles you’re facing right now, but remain steadfast. Don’t give up. They may wave their horns, charge you, snort at you, maybe even graze you, in an attempt to get you to back down. But stay the course. The “crown of life” is worth every battle. It may seem as though God has thrown you into the dangerous pastures of life, shut the gate, and left you alone. I assure you, He hasn’t. Remember, He’s already tamed every enemy you’ll ever face and He stands at the edge of every battlefield ready to intervene. But like any parent or coach, God also knows you’ll only get better by facing your trials down yourself. And when it’s over, and the “crown of life” is resting across your brow, you’ll look back and say “In the joy, the tension, the struggle, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.” Then you’ll have a testimony for eternity.