Finding Faith in Green Pastures
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Finding Green Pastures

How four restless cows became reminders of grace and peace.

Cows wander over hills with a house and farm in the background.
Illustration by Brooke Smart

It was a phone call I never wanted but often received: “Julia, are you missing some cows?”

Every time I got some variation of this phone call, I would run over to the kitchen window, look down the hill into the pasture where our four belligerent cows resided, and groan in agony. The field was usually empty, indicating that yes, I definitely was missing some cows.

My husband, Logan, and I moved our six kids from the suburbs to 17 acres of farmland back in 2016, hoping to give them room to roam and more opportunities to “do hard things.” “Hard things,” in our minds, meant things like hauling rocks from one end of the yard to the other, helping to install acre after acre of electric fence, and—as mentioned—taking care of the four insolent cows.

But even though the care and keeping of the cows was meant to be a character-builder for our children, they became much more of a thorn in my side than anyone else’s. That’s because they always seemed to escape when the kids were at school and Logan was at work, leaving me the lone ranger responsible for corralling them back into the pasture. This was an activity I was not particularly good at, as my many bruises and one banged-up four-wheeler prove.

“Why do they keep getting out?” I complained one day after another agonizing roundup on the prairie. I couldn’t understand: the fence seemed strong, but the cows were somehow motivated enough to get through even barbed wire and electricity.

“If their bellies are full, they won’t try to get out anymore.”

“Well, what are you feeding them?” replied a hardy cowboy neighbor who had come to help us corral the cows. “If their bellies are full, they won’t try to get out anymore.”

I carefully observed the area where the cows had been grazing throughout the fall and winter. They had eaten down all of the grass, and our kids had been feeding them hay—copious amounts, in my opinion—for the past few months. But if the cows were searching for greener pastures, maybe it wasn’t enough.

A little while later Logan opened the gate to our neighboring pasture and let the cows wander in. The grass hadn’t been touched for an entire season, so it was dark green and reached all the way to Logan’s shoulders. The cows immediately started munching.

Over the next several weeks, I noticed something every time I glanced down toward the pasture to do my frequent check for escaped cows: more often than not, the cows were lying down.

In their previous pasture, they were constantly roaming and frequently reaching over the fence in search of more food to satiate their hunger. But in the new pasture, food was everywhere. There was no need to push against the fence in a futile search for something more. They were content, comfortable, and safe right where they were.

I remembered a scripture as I watched the cows lying peacefully among the tall grass: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:1–2).

I thought of my own green pastures and of Jesus Christ as my shepherd. Because of Him I don’t need to wander into unsafe territory or desperately look for something to bring me peace and contentment. His grace is right there in front of me.

But just because our cows have everything they could ever need or want in their new pasture, I’m not so naive as to think that they will never try to escape again. They are, after all, belligerent cows, just like we are willful humans who become blind, at times, to the paradise in front of us.

When I’m in those moments of escape—when I’m pushing against what I know is best for me—I try to remember my cows. And that’s when I realize that I need to turn my will over to Him and allow Him to lead me to those green pastures of rest.

Julia Ditto

Julia Ditto is a columnist and mom of six who loves podcasts, chocolate, and baby animals.

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