The Lesson of the Buffalo and the Cow

The Lesson of the Buffalo and the Cow

How we respond to the challenges and storms of life are critical for a number of reasons:

1.  It sets the trajectory of the rest of your life.  Some people let the past chase them for the rest of their days.  They never let go of the victim mentality.  Others choose to let the challenges they have faced (even devastating ones) be a catalyst for growth and inspiration.

2.  It provides a testimony for others.  What better way to put on display your faith than to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:2-4).  When we express our faith to others, they expect that faith will have some sort of practical impact on the way we live our lives.  If we respond to trials no differently than those without faith, what does that say about our belief in God?

3.  It can actually shorten the duration of the storms we face.  This is where the illustration of the buffalo and the cow has its application. 

Rory Vaden in his book Take the Stairs tells about the instinctual reactions of both cows and buffaloes on the plains of Colorado when a storm is seen coming over the mountains.  Cows will, by instinct, choose to run to the east away from the storm.  Of course, there is no way a cow is going to out run the rain.  By choosing to run away from the storm they actually prolong its effects as the storm passes over. 

Interestingly enough (and you know where this is going), the buffalo has the opposite approach.  When they see a storm cresting over the Rocky Mountains, at just the right moment they run directly into the storm.  With the buffalo heading west and the storm heading east they drastically reduce their exposure to the elements and the storm passes them very quickly.

I know there are exceptions to every story and some storms are different than others (way different), but I have to believe there is some significant application here for our lives.  We naturally want to avoid pain.  However, it is a mistake to assume that we should attempt to move away from pain in every situation.  Most of the time that train is coming down the tracks and there is no way you nor I are going to be able to stop it.  We end up prolonging our anxiety and often elevating the risk and exposure by trying to delay the inevitable. 

Think about the damage we cause when:

▪   We try to outrun our debt through consolidating credit or taking out a home equity loan (for example).  It alleviates our stress in the present, but it enslaves us to debt years (if not decades) longer.

▪   We refuse to apply discipline to what we eat and how active we are in our younger years.  We don’t like the pain of exercise or saying no to our food addiction.  By putting off these healthy practices we end up facing the greater storms of high blood pressure, cholesterol and eventually, heart disease.

▪   We refuse to have that difficult conversation with a friend or family member who has offended us.  We let the wound fester and become infected.  We avoid that person for weeks, months, even years.  All because of our fear of conflict.

▪   We don’t seek counsel out when dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one.  We think it is best to distract our mind 1000 other ways rather than to talk about the heartache or memories of the one we loved.  We end up pushing the pause button on our lives and never move forward relationally with anyone, having had our emotions paralyzed by our fear of ever being hurt again.  One way to avoid pain is to not care about anything or anyone anymore. 

I’m essentially asking you (and myself) to engage in paradoxical behavior.  We need to do what we don’t feel like doing.  I promise you, however, that if we face up to the storm we will find that our pain is temporary…much more so than what we will experience if we try to avoid that pain by running away from the storm.

Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.  Turn the other cheek.  Go two miles when asked to go one.  Give not just your tunic but your cloak as well.  Save your life by losing it.  Take up your cross daily.  The greatest among you will be the servant of all.  The last will be first and the first will be last.  Become like children.  And the list continues…

Inside each of these statements is a decision to face the storm.  To endure hardship.  To make sacrifice in the present.  Each present sacrifice has major long-term rewards.  The pain will not last forever.  In fact, it will be greatly reduced.

Just ask the buffalo.