Bracing

Yesterday we had our 4H large livestock meeting. It was our tagging day, as well as showmanship practice, so we loaded those silly little goats into a dog crate in the back of our beast of a vehicle and headed down the interstate, baa-ing all the way!

It was the first day the goats have ever been exposed to showmanship, so they had to work hard. The process is pretty fascinating, and I think it’s transferrable to other areas of life, so I’d like to tell you about it.

When you’re showing a market goat, your goal is to show off the meaty areas so they can be appropriately evaluated. The stance of the goat, or the way the feet are placed, should be strong and firm, and the goat will perform best if it’s bracing, which means that the goat is actually pushing its whole body weight against the human, activating its muscles.

Now, a goat is a contrary and melodramatic animal that isn’t born knowing how to brace (although the stance can be pretty natural to it). So part of the showmanship practicing process is to teach the goat that it has to push back at the handler in order to get a good brace.

The way that our 4H leader showed us how to get the goat to brace was to hold it by it collar at the jawbones and get it off balance by lifting the front feet off the ground, then pushing backwards quickly so the goat is literally back pedaling. Before too many steps, the goat has a moment where it says with its actions, “I’m tired of you pushing me around … I’m not going backwards anymore.”

At that point, the goat plants its back legs and the handler can feel the difference in the pushback they’re getting. The muscles are firm, the resolve of the goat is strong, and the handler can immediately drop the front legs down to position their own body against the goat to support the goat in its braced position.

It takes some practice, but the goat learns that when the handler turns their body into the “support” posture, it’s their own job to brace, push, and stand firm. Until they learn the cues, the goat will continue to be pushed backwards and off balance.

It reminds me of so many things in life where I, in a rash of people-pleasing and desire to perform, have allowed myself to bend over backwards and ended up off balance in other areas of my life. When I finally decide to plant my feet and say, “NO. I WILL NOT BE MOVED IN THAT DIRECTION,” I have found that the rest of life activities tend to fall in line.

Now, I’m not advocating being a stubborn one without cause – and goats can be real boogers on occasion, so I have a mental picture of this in a negative sense as well – but I am advocating clinging to the Word and allowing it to give me resolve for what SHOULD be done rather than what COULD be done.

There are many, many battle allusions in Scripture, which leads me to believe our lives should be more of a warship than a cruise ship. I also think a warship manned with toddlers and sippy cups is less effective than one manned with soldiers in Kevlar armor.

My prayer for today for both you and me? It’s simply this:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND YOUR GROUND, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of TRUTH buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of PEACE. In addition to all this, take up the shield of FAITH, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of SALVATION and the sword of the SPIRIT, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-18

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