What Mutton Bustin’ Taught Me About Jesus Lovin’

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Last week, Therese (6), rode a sheep in front of roughly 65,000 people during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Mutton Bustin’ event. Kinda makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong with my life. When I was 6, I um…I…went to the zoo. Totally the same thing.

Of our five kids, Therese is the definitely the fearless one. She was born 14 months after Howie, who himself was walking by 8 months and climbing furniture by 9.5 months. We called him our “mountain goat.” Therese is fierce and lost no time catching up with her big brother, and then ordering him around when she realized she could get away with it. They still get into scrapes all these years later. The thing is, Howie does have a smidge of a timid streak, a modicum of sensible boundaries, and an awareness of limitations. But Therese? Nope. Ain’t a timid thing about this girl.

So back to the bustin’. For weeks leading up to her rodeo debut, she trained in the backyard with her older sisters and dad. They were dutiful, lively sheep, some still sporting the battle wounds they gained in the process. Therese walked around routinely chanting, “I am one with the sheep, and the sheep is with me.” (Yes, too much Star Wars around here…) Like any hopeful champion, she studied film – YouTube videos – of previous winners and mentally made note of strategies that might help. She had a countdown calendar next to her bed. The kid was focused and determined. I promise…I am not making any of this up.

Did I mention she’s six?

The night of her big ride, all that effort paid off. Just before she went down to the dirt floor to don her protective vest and helmet, she looked at me. “Mommy, it doesn’t matter if I don’t win and someone else does. And if I lose, I don’t have to be upset about it. I learned that in Little Flowers!” Talk about a proud mama moment!

And then, she trucked on down to the arena floor and held onto that sheep for almost the entire ride.

The next day, a good friend was describing some spiritual warfare she was battling. It was pretty heavy stuff. Our tribe of friends and prayer warriors chimed in with encouragement and prayer, and I half-jokingly suggested these “Lessons Learned” that our Therese gleaned from her training. It struck me that they’re just as applicable to the spiritual life, especially since the sheep imagery is pretty clear. The Lamb is Our Savior, is He not? So, here ya go:

1. Hold onto the wool with all your fingers, and keep a firm grip with your elbows and knees. Cling tightly to Jesus, with every ounce of strength you have, no matter how much life tries to buck you off or drag you around. As my dad told Therese – “Dig your fingers into that wool and don’t let go until they pry you off!”

2. Keep your ear to the side of his body so that you aren’t scared by looking to see what’s ahead of you. Trust where you’ve been placed on the sheep. Don’t focus on the scary stuff staring you head-on. Nestle your head against His heart and keep it there.

3. If you feel yourself starting to slide off, quickly throw your head on the other side of the sheep to reestablish balance. When you feel that life is weighing you down and you’re about to fall, switch gears and think of the other side of life with the Lamb. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for blessings received, and remember His promise to send His angels to lift you up (Psalm 91:11-12.)

4. If you fall off, pick yourself up and smile for the camera. So what? You tried. And you’ll try again…and you’ll fall again. But Jesus isn’t asking you to not fall – He fell three times on the way to Calvary. He’s just asking you to stand up, put your hat back on, and keep smiling. And why not smile? You’re His!

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