A phone call late in the evening can mean any number of things at our house. Could be a son who is up late studying and realizes he needs some money in his account by tomorrow morning. Might be one of my advertising clients who frequently calls at ten o'clock at night – the only sure guarantee that either of us is available to talk business. Sometimes it is the troubling news of a member in our congregation who needs the comfort of the pastor. And then, there are the calls that just get you in an instantaneous bad mood. A neighbor calls to report your bull is out.
On one moonless night under hazy, overcast skies, our big, black bull was wandering. To the farm we headed, ill equipped, since there is never a flashlight that really works and the spotlight burned out months ago.
Sure enough, he had covered more ground than we had hoped. We discovered the escapee standing along a ditch on the thankfully seldom traveled gravel road. We convinced him to turn and head north toward a fenced lane that would usher him back to his herd. That part wasn't too difficult since we operated by the pickup truck lights and both of us could push the burly bull with balanced pressure from rear and side. But when he turned down the lane, I was left alone and afoot to keep driving him while my husband returned to retrieve the truck.
By the time the beast and the bedraggled beauty angled down that lane and were headed west, it was eerie dark. A one ton black bull, followed by little ol' me, also dressed in black, moving blindly through the night. I honestly had no idea how far ahead he was or how close I was to him. My only clue was the crunch of gravel from rocks pulverized under the pressure of four hooves hauling one ton of bovine muscle. I'd walk a little, then listen to make sure he was still on the move. Only one thing would signal which way he was facing, the flash of white from his baldy head. By the time the truck whipped in the drive and shined it's headlights hundreds of feet beyond me, I could see what I suspected. There he stood, broadside, looking back at me obstinately.
The comfort and assistance from the beams aided our progress, but one more daring mission awaited the final step. While Alan sped down to the gate, I was left again, persuading the rebellious bull to keep moving the right way. A few cow-cutting steps and a cattle prod convinced him he had met his match and he relinquished pressing his cause. He turned and trotted increasingly faster toward the pen.
I've been around cattle my whole life and have a healthy respect for livestock that large. I prefer to work them in the daylight than in the dark and I never take for granted that one wrong move could be dangerous. As I walked that darkened lane, a bit of fear kept me safe. I would have been foolish to get too close or to run up flailing my arms. I kept my distance and I kept talking so he'd know who was in charge. Even when he stopped, he did not turn fully around and come back toward me. I intimidated him just enough to hold him at bay until help showed up.
So it goes with spiritual strongholds. When dark enemy forces break the boundaries and wander where they hope to endanger me, I call on courage and experience to help me face fear. I keep on moving confidently. I keep on speaking to the enemy. I carry a stick! And, most importantly, I wait for the Light who promises to help me.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
The more I call the enemy's bluff, the more he has to regard me and move according to my authority. And when the Light of the World shows up, he has to leave!
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
If I can turn a one ton bull in the pitch black of night, I know I can face any foe, any time, with Jesus on my side.