Growing Pains

Growing up can sometimes be a noisy affair. With calves, that’s the first week of weaning season. Separated from their mamas, these little ones, and their mamas, have been bawling themselves hoarse for the past few days. Neither mama cow nor calf are hungry, but both are experiencing separation anxiety and the discomfort that often accompanies maturation.

Pictured above, Federico (left) and Dante (remember how sick he was in March) are best friends and half-brothers. Dante is also Federico’s uncle; same sire (Mavric), as Dante’s mama (Francesca) is Federico’s grandmother. In the next few weeks, these two rascals will be on their way to a new adventure elsewhere. Until that time, they’ve got a little more growing up to do. When weaning calves, I remember the words of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 and Hebrews 5:12-14, and the purpose of understanding the need to transition from milk to meat.

At birth (or our new birth as a Christian), we seek milk for nourishment, as it is imperative to get the basics (nutrients, antibodies, etc.) we need to enable growth. Our dependence upon others for sustainment highlights this early stage of life. Parents, be they human, bovine, or spiritual, provide what’s needed with a goal of future maturity and growth. As children grow, parents teach them the basic skills needed to succeed in life.

All parents seek to see their children grow, prosper, and mature. #SpiritualGrowth #MilkToMeat Click To Tweet

In those Scripture verses, I recognize how analogous our Christian life is to the human, and yes, a calf’s lifecycle. In a calf’s case, this is learning to forage for food and water, be a part of the herd, and how to ruminate and rest. And like all children, calves learn how to protect themselves and recognize potential dangers (discerning good from evil). While not an exact science, good ranchers know to look for signs of maturity to determine which calves are ready to wean and which aren’t. When I see mine wandering further away on their own, demonstrating a robust appetite, and comfort being away from their mama, it’s time for the next stage.

An important consideration in weaning calves must be how you do it. Since I’m not raising dairy cows to produce copious amounts of milk, I shared-fence wean my beef calves. Weaning is always a stressful event, and I minimize their stress by allowing the calves and their mamas to see, touch, talk to, and smell one another, but not nurse. An interesting fact is that cow-calf operations that either don’t have a herd bull or AI, where they keep calves as replacements, mamas will sometimes wean their own calves. They seem to know the right time naturally and will prevent the calf from nursing. When that doesn’t happen, some ranchers will insert an anti-suckling device (nose flap) onto the calf to prevent nursing.

Weaning is stressful for both cow and calf, but the stress is temporary as their natural instincts take over and they begin to drift away from one another. For the mama cows, this means they get to dry up and rest during their crucial second and third trimesters, before the cycle begins again. For calves, they begin to grow and mature at a faster pace, no longer dependent upon another for their growth.

The goal of discipling others is to grow them into disciple-makers. #SpiritualGrowth #Discipleship Click To Tweet

Growing (maturing) in our faith means we must not depend on others to feed and care for our souls, but we must seek nourishment and grow for ourselves. The milk of God’s Word, provided by others, teaches us the basics of our Christian faith; we find the meat of God’s Word when we begin learning for ourselves. As calves must grow to become productive members of the herd, so must Christians grow to become productive members of the family of faith.

Our impact for God’s kingdom is commensurate with the maturity of our faith. The less we mature and grow in our Christian life, the less impactful we will be. The question then becomes, How do we do this? How do we grow in our faith? The best answer I know is to spend time in God’s Word for yourself. While devotions and other written materials are helpful, as they often provide insight, direction, and invite reflection, they are not a replacement for God’s Word. It is through study, reflection, and prayer that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of His Word in our spirit and hides it within our soul.

Like my little calves, we Christians must sometimes endure some growing pains so we might mature into the productive, effective, and fervent disciple-makers we are called to become. My prayer is that we each take a moment to ask God to show us what things we need to wean ourselves from so we might become more effective servants.

God’s blessings,

46 thoughts on “Growing Pains

  1. So much truth here!!! At this moment I have one little grandson who is going through this separation anxiety as they try to get him into a preschool class. He was also not one who wanted to give up nursing. As a mama who nursed and weaned 3 children, it is definitely stressful for both baby and mama but a natural step of development. Thank you for always sharing these deep truths in such a lovely, clear way.

    1. Thank you Ms. Ann. I think we all experience separation anxiety to one level or another. My prayer of late has been that more folks recognize their separation from God and act to reconcile themselves. Always enjoy your comments ma’am.

  2. Thanks again, J.D., for using the natural world around you to open windows into God’s truth. As I read your fascinating tutorial on the weaning process, I was reminded again of something I’ve been saying for decades. That is, that immaturity is the most damaging condition that exists in the Church that isn’t categorically condemned as a sin. Suppose we had an army with millions of troops. Suppose it has strategic plans developed by the best military minds on the planet, and that the best generals ever are available to lead it. Then imagine that this arm is equipped with the most effective arsenal ever collected. Sounds like we would have a formidable force to engage any enemy, doesn’t it? Oh wait, I forgot to include one little detail. All the soldiers in the ranks are 3 to 5 years old. Now what do you have? You have chaos. You don’t have a fighting force. You have a bunch of disorganized, ineffective, self-centered, weak, whiny, easily frightened, and strategically ignorant children. They’re more suited for a nursery school than a battlefield. The enemy would look at them and laugh. As bad as I hate to say it, that’s how so much of the Church in America looks to me these days. Like you pointed out so well, growing up is our first challenge. In my counseling work, I’ve seen people whose body matured but their mind wasn’t able to keep pace. It’s heartbreaking to see a thirty-year-old person with the understanding of a two-year-old. Sadly, I’ve seen more of that same condition spiritually in the church than I ever encountered physically or psychologically. Your excellent points about owning the responsibility for our spiritual nourishment and development are so vitally needed right now. God bless you for once again highlighting an important issue in a way that was informative and inspirational.

    1. Amen Mr. Ron! I think that’s exactly what Satan is doing with much of the church today. He’s laughing at scores of folks who are “playing Christian”, not living Christian. I remember in Matthew, Jesus said there would be few in Heaven (Matthew 7:13-23). I pray this may serve as a wake-up call for so many, including myself in ways; it’s time we put away this world and focus on the end-game here my friend.

  3. “Like my little calves, we Christians must sometimes endure some growing pains so we might mature into the productive, effective, and fervent disciple-makers we are called to become. ” A powerful summary! Thank you.

  4. We all are called to mature in our Christian faith, J. D. Whether or not we accept the invitation to grow up so we can make better disciples for Jesus is up to us. Thanks once again for an oh-so-true analogy, my friend.
    Blessings!

  5. So true and wonderful post. I remember very well every fall for the bawling, whew. Seems like it was harder for the moms. Good point too, about discipleship, to see and watch as one who has never reached out in testimony, to finally witness for Jesus and find a reward in their spirit and amen.
    Ol’ papa

  6. Growing pains are real–for children and their mothers! My two youngest are preparing to leave the nest and it’s a challenging transition for each of us, but necessary for all. Thanks for the wonderful reminders today, friend.

    Blessings,
    Tammy

    1. I can’t believe you have little ones ready to solo, but I will be praying they remember to rely upon that firm foundation you have placed their lives upon my friend. Hang in there, and I promise that if you go find some hay or green grass to eat, you’ll soon feel less anxiety about letting them go. 😀

  7. I appreciate the challenge to look for the things we need to wean ourselves from so that we might grow to become effective disciples. What insight! I find it’s all too easy to stay dependent on people, places, things and miss the Spirit’s tug to separate so that we can mature in Him. Thank you for your insightful words.

    1. You’re a blessing “Coach” Sharon. Thank you ma’am. It is easy to stay in a place/position you’ve grown comfortable in, but I remind myself that the enemy knows where you are too, and it’s never safe to be in the same place for too long.

  8. I am glad you pointed out our need to grow through the Word and not just rely on devotions and articles. While these do provide us with stimulation for thought, our growth occurs by feeding on the real spiritual meat. Also, I wish you and your cattle much success in this weaning process. Praying it will be as stress free as possible.

    1. Thank you Ms. Barbara. I sense that many are “comfortable” with living on the periphery of Christian life, but that’s not where God wants us to be. I can’t help but think of Revelation 3:15-21 when I think of too much of our churches today. This isn’t “shooting the wounded”, this is to tell them we’re wounded and we need to be patching each other up! God’s blessing sweet friend.

  9. I like your devotions from the ranch, Mr J.D.

    Cows and calves, goats and kids, cats and kittens all end up walking away from mom and often never knowing dad. In the case of your place, Mavric is there to greet them into the surviving family. I have little experience with bulls in particular, but I suspect it’s not long before those young’uns find out the rules apropos to growing up at the CrossW.

    Thankfully, we have a loving Father and a sacrificed Son who will love us all the way to heaven. Great job, again. Thanks.

    1. 🙂 Your comments made me laugh Mr. Warren. It wasn’t too long ago that Federico was half the size he is now and he decided he wanted to “bull” with daddy “Mavric”. Bulling is when two cows lower their heads and come together in what seems to be a test of strength to see who can move who the furthest. As you may remember, “Mavric” is close to a ton of prize bull. Little Federico was about a tenth of that at best. It was hilarious as “Mavric” just stood there while the little guy was doing his best to move his sire. After about 10 minutes of this, Federico just laid down in exhaustion and his dad laid beside him. I could just imagine the conversation they had.

  10. You paint a wonderful picture with your words and stories. I thoroughly enjoy your message. Also thanks for the reminder that daily Bible reading is the most important thing we can do to deepen our faith.

  11. I remember those days when our cows would decide their calf needed to stop nursing. The mamas would move away and kick out at their “babies” (who were big by that time). Reminds me of when the mama bird gives her baby a boost out of the nest–“It’s time to grow up little one!” So much wisdom here, my friend. but this sentence really spoke to me, “My prayer is that we each take a moment to ask God to show us what things we need to wean ourselves from so we might become more effective servants.” I need that reminder. Thank you.

  12. I enjoyed learning about the weaning process of calves. So much science — as well as love — go into this cattle ranching business. The analogy you make between weaning off milk and our maturing spirituality is spot on. 1 Corinthians 3 was part of my Bible reading this morning. I’m thankful God gives us all the time we need to transition to solid food. And I’m eternally thankful this calf finally got there!

    1. Yes ma’am. I too am so grateful God is so patient with us and extends His grace to our lives. I’ve struck out so many times, but God appreciates that I keep swinging. I’m still trying my friend.

  13. I learned a lot about the weaning process between calf and mama. Thanks for putting the names together for us in this family/herd.

    Powerful analogy to a Christian maturing in their faith. We should all grow up with Christ as the head and find that season where we wean ourselves off the milk and desire the meat of the Word.

    1. Absolutely Ms. Karen. Glad you enjoyed ma’am. Isn’t in wonderful to know that our family tree has been grafted into God’s? Joining you and Mr. Mike in prayer that many more Christians will begin that maturing process also.

  14. As usual, J.D., you draw some wonderful and relevant insights from nature to apply to our Christian lives. While calves eventually are all grown up, we can keep growing and maturing throughout our lives, plumbing the endless depths of God. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today.

    1. Amen Ms. Annie. How very true that we must keep stretching and growing in Christ my friend. Sanctification is a lifetime journey, but knowing that one day we will be glorified and made to be like Christ is the prize we must keep striving for my friend. God’s blessings.

  15. Enjoyed the comparisons between the cow and calf and our own need to mature from milk to meat as a Christian. I smiled when I read that you just separate them by fence so they can still see and interact during that time of learning to live independently.

    1. Thank you Ms. Teresa. Weaning is always difficult, for all children, but if we can help maintain a connection throughout the process, it does make it easier. Am so glad you enjoyed ma’am.

  16. So true, brother JD. The maturity process is painful as we seek out the meat for ourselves. I find that memorizing scripture is one of the best ways to grow up spiritually along with prayer and studying the Word. Right now I care for my mother who has dementia, which slows down my maturity time, but God is gracious to me. You’ve inspired me to press in more as I travel this rocky path. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. It is indeed Ms. Karen, and yes, there are times when it seems like we aren’t growing very far. What I discovered in my own caregiving journey is that while I may not have grown real far in my spiritual life while caring for daddy, I sure did grow DEEP. I pray you are finding that same growth in your life sweet sister. I can’t wait to share “It’s What Love Does” with you as soon as God releases it for publication.

    1. He (God) sure does Ms. Nancy. Am so glad you enjoyed the post and could see the parallels drawn ma’am. Love that phrase, “independent nurturers of our own faith”. Reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12. God’s blessings my friend.

  17. Great lessons here from weaning those cute calves! You’re so right that we need to move beyond milk to learn from Scripture ourselves! Thank you for your lessons from the ranch!

    1. Thanks Ms. Kathy. I’m so glad you enjoyed the calves. Mr. John and I have enjoyed them learning (from the older steers they’re with now) to come to the gates to the pasture and take treats (individual cubes) from our hands. As we hand feed them before or upon entering the gate, they allow us to touch and interact with them. This “gentles” them even more so they become accustomed to be handled and lead by humans. With God’s help, I’ll be able to bring many more lessons from the Cross-Dubya in the weeks and months to come ma’am.

  18. Funny you should ask the question at the end of your blog about what we should wean ourselves from to become more effective servants. I think sometimes my answer would be “busyness.” I never thought I could be so busy in retirement! I remember longing for the day when I would have the leisure time to linger in prayer, meditation, and Bible reading. I’m ashamed to say that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. In my defense, however, I did wean myself away from singing with the seniors for a little while. But that was so I could focus on my writing a bit more.

    1. I think that (busyness) is something we can all stand to wean ourselves from in today’s world Ms. Karen. What I’ve learned is that busyness does not correlate to effectiveness. I know lots of folks who are “busy, busy, busy”, but they accomplish very little because they spend all their time moving from one thing to another, and little gets the attention needed to produce the desired result. Thank you so much for adding to our conversation.

  19. As I neared the end of this post, I knew what was coming next–to grow, we must spend time in God’s Word. But your final sentence held the punch–“. . . ask God to show us what things we need to wean ourselves from. . . ” Powerful words, J. D.! Words for me to pray!

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