We raised cattle while I was growing up and one important piece of livestock equipment we used regularly was a squeeze chute. Not surprisingly, the routine actions of branding, giving shots, de-horning, and es-pecially castrating bulls, were difficult to administer to cattle on their own terms in the open range! So, at appropriate times we would corral the cattle and run them through the squeeze chute one by one. The chute would squeeze the cow so that it couldn’t move while we inflicted upon it the necessary, though painful, procedures. In the end, the chute actually kept the cow from hurting itself while we administered temporary pain.
Whenever we bought a new batch of calves, they would be herded one at a time into the squeeze chute. Since they now belonged to us, all of them would receive our registered brand “HB”, with a “)” under it. The branding irons were heated red hot by a propane torch and then quickly pressed into the left rear flank of the calf. Of course it hurt (and stunk terribly!) but it was the only approved method for proving ownership if one of our cows escaped our pasture and ended up in someone else’s. The calf would often be given an injection to protect it from common diseases at the same time. Once again the shot hurt for a while, but in the end the calf was more healthy.
Later on as the calves grew into larger steers, many of them would sprout dangerous horns that they would use to injure our other cattle. These proud bullies would be led into the squeeze chute to have their horns removed. A specially made cattle horn shear (similar to a tree branch pruner) was placed over each horn. After a strong squeeze of the long handles, the injurious horn would be gone. Dad would always have a red hot branding iron standing by to cauterize any exposed arteries to stop the bleeding. With proper medication, the steers healed quickly and the horns never reappeared.
Surprisingly, what is necessary for cattle may be necessary for us as well. While we are running free in God’s bountiful pastures, serious issues unknown to us may need hurtful intervention. God may choose to lead us into a trial, a squeeze chute of sorts, so He can graciously administer temporary pain, in order for us to experience eternal gain. Yes, a squeeze chute may seem cruel, but we must remember its primary purpose is to keep us from injuring ourselves while God’s necessary and painful operations take place.
When I find myself squeezed between a rock and a hard place, 2 Corinthians 4 brings me great comfort. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed: perplexed, but not in despair… For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all… Therefore we do not lose heart.” In the end, a hard place may be a grace place.
Bruce Hendrich is pastor at Oak Street Baptist Church 804 Oak Street • Elizabethon, TN 37643 • 423.542.4022 • oakstreetbaptist.net