5:15 AM. Alarm goes off. A new day. I start by wrapping myself shoulders-to-ankles in cozy white terry cloth, slipping my feet into pink, and following yellow lab Rose downstairs to the front door. Tail wags. Front porch light illuminates newly sugared planks and a sparkling yard. She steps out, branding the wood with her print, and heads off for morning sniffs of fresh winter air as I stare and think about yesterday’s lesson.
We are studying United States History this year, Nick and I. Yesterday we learned about the first American cowboys who were really Mexicans. They raised longhorn cattle in Texas while it was still part of Mexico. Most features of American cowboy life developed there. The main job of a cowboy was to move herds of steer from place to place and to protect the animals on the open range. During the nights, cowboys sang gentle songs over their herd to calm cattle fear of predators and help them sleep in peace. During the day, cowboys rode horses to steer their herd. They threw a rope loop called a lasso to catch individual animals so they could brand them with an iron to show ownership. Branding was necessary because herds often mixed on the plains, and land ownership was not clear at that time.
Have I been branded? Who has rights to me? Am I wandering on open plains, mingling and mixing, losing my sense of who I am—really? Do I belong to anyone? Does anyone search for me to sing songs of comfort and assurance, to care for me, to claim me as their own?
These questions may not run through the minds of steer but they do run through the minds of people. We want to belong. We want to be protected and soothed. We want distinct identity. We want to be noticed and cared for and claimed by someone good. But do we want to be branded?
I was branded willingly at 16. In fact, I asked to be branded. God had been pursuing me for years, patiently wooing me and helping me come to know who He is, HOW he is—that He is GOOD—and that He wants to claim me for Himself. And He doesn’t want to claim me to hurt me or control me. No. I learned He is the God of FREEDOM—of free choices with inevitable consequences, good and bad. He didn’t have to lasso my legs or my head to control me back then. He lassoed my heart and His love melted me. When I finally came to understand God’s grace, His mercy, His absolute goodness, His power—I stopped running. I turned. I walked to Him. And I let Him brand me with a kiss of life—TRUE LIFE—His life. What I thought was life was really just running and mixing and losing myself slowly—losing my life truly. When I let Him make claim on me, a reverse process began. I began finding my true life by losing my false life. I traded MY brand of living for HIS.
To be branded, marked with His holy touch, identified, given purpose, cared for, loved completely, committed to forever—is there anyone who does not want such wonders? All we need do is stop running and evading. All we need do is turn and let ourselves be caught by perfect love. Every day, in every way, will we stop running and turn and let ourselves be lassoed by Perfect Love and branded with His holy, gentle kiss?