A couple of years ago, my husband Scott and I took a trip to a dude ranch in a very small town called French Broad River, Tennessee. First we had a lesson on how to ride inside a corral, then we went on an easy trail ride, then a more advanced trail ride, and then having proven our wrangler abilities, we were allowed to go on a cattle drive.

The cattle graze in a field until there is no more grass to eat. The goal of the cattle drive is to move the entire herd to another field so they can keep eating.  Scott and I, along with the cattle’s owner, boxed in the cattle with our horses and began to move them to the next pasture.

A few of the cattle would wander away when I wasn’t watching them, so I’d ride over as fast as I could, get behind the cow and try to coerce it to rejoin the herd. This kept happeniing with several of the cattle until they had me coming and going so much that I didn’t see a couple of them slip away into the woods. I thought I was doing a great job driving them on to the next field, yet I didn’t miss them when they became lost.
But not the owner! He was sincerely concerned for every last cow. I knew this was especially true because he told me that each and every cow was a pet to him. They were never to be sold to the butcher—he himself was a vegetarian.

This ranch owner cared so much for each animal’s well being that he instantly noticed which one was missing out of the large herd, and immediately called for help. Another wrangler arrived on horseback, and so did his wife in the pickup truck. They came with great speed and urgency until the lost cows were driven back down into the road, and then the pickup chased them until they were safely inside the gate out of harm’s way.

The rancher loves those cows because of who he is, not because of who the cows are. Did he love them because they repented and asked for forgiveness for continually trying to wander away? Of course not! He loves and protects them because it is part of his nature to do so.

And that is also God’s nature. God loves us, even when we are lost, because of who God is, not because of who we are. This week let us lift up prayers of gratitude for who God is: a loving, forgiving, grace-offering, no-strings-attached God.

– Pastor Nancy Pauls, Resurrection Prayer Ministry