weeks ago, I asked some friends to suggest topics for my columns.
Never one to shirk a challenge, my friend Dean immediately suggested
faith versus works.
and works are a bit of a sticking point for some observers of the
Mormon faith. I have had decent, loving people tell me in all
seriousness that I believe that I can do enough good works to secure
my own salvation. They say I do not accept that I need a Savior.
greatly appreciate their confidence in me, but I cannot make polite
conversation or Jell-O that actually gels. I don’t remember
which day I was married or what I named the children that I love so
dearly. I have no chance at any type of blessings or salvation
without a dose of grace so massive that my biggest and best work
would be absorbed into as an invisible speck.
why then, works?
my beautiful Rosie cow had her first calf. Please understand that
when I say Rosie is beautiful, I am assuming that anyone looking at
her is blinded by the same love I have for her. A more objective
person may notice that she is skinny, and that the stubs of her horns
point in wildly different directions, or that her left eye is clouded
by a blinding bloom of white.
has the symmetry of a Picasso painting. Her coloring is so uneven
that she looks more like a graffiti victim than a spotted cow. But
she is sweet and gentle. She solicits loves. She will come and
discuss her day in sweet low tones while I rub her neck. She is my
labor had been very hard for her. When I checked the bag and
placenta, I was a little worried about their condition. Rosie’s
tiny bull calf had not liked labor any better than she had. He lay on
the ground sprawled out rather than curled up like a healthy sleepy
calf. He was tiny and limp.
I checked his hips and umbilical cord, he quit breathing. I rubbed
him vigorously and he regrouped only to quit breathing again a few
minutes later. I brought him around again and worked on getting him
up. He stumbled, not like a regular wobbly calf. He tipped completely
over. I got him up again.
wasn’t doing much better. She had wandered away to the water
bucket. She was more interested in my children than her own little
one. She did not care that I was annoying her baby. She did not
care when the bull came over to check things out. She did not warn us
away or hurry over to lick him clean of our contamination. She did
not look at him at all.
calf made a few half-hearted attempts to call for a momma. But Rosie
didn’t answer him. Finally on his feet, he began wandering
around the pasture trying to identify his mother. Having met the bull
first, the little calf followed him for quite a while. The bull was
shockingly tolerant about it but eventually the calf realized that he
was not getting fed and wandered away.
next approached a trio of cows my son refers to as “the Mafia.”
They are beautiful cows, even to objective people. They are also
surly and far too good to waste time with human beings. But they are
excellent mothers and nursemaids. They have taken in and nursed bum
calves for us time and time again.
for some reason, they greatly objected to the presence of this tiny
bull. They ran him off. They pushed him away from their babies. He
would get no help from them.
was becoming concerned. It was getting dark and cold. Rosie remained
uninterested or even completely unaware of her offspring. The calf
fell down weakly and began to sleep. I had to do something.
we isolated the calf and Rosie, but they remained strangers. Rosie
stepped not very carefully over her baby’s head to get as far
away from him as possible. Finally Rosie lay down to rest. Because
she is the most tolerant cow I gently milked some rich yellow
colostrum from her bloated udder. I got milk on my hands and Rosie’s
udder. Then I let the little calf suck on my fingers. He was excited
about my new idea. I milked out more and fed him with a baster. He
made happy slurping sounds.
had started to snow. I sat on the ground holding the little calf,
leaning against my cow and willing them to find each other. My
daughter made Rosie a bucket of warm water with molasses and bullion.
Whenever Rosie let the calf near or let me milk her we rewarded her
with a drink.
a towel and rubbed the baby down vigorously to stop his shaking. Then
I took some remaining afterbirth and a little milk and rubbed in on
the calf’s head and hips. I needed his mother to smell that he
was her baby but I did not want to make him cold. Finally fed
and warm, the little bull got up and after laborious searching he
found a fat milk-filled teat. Rosie tolerated his attempts as we
plied her with more drink.
hours in the snowy field, we came inside. I was soaked and freezing
cold. My body hurt. I had done the best I could do. I wanted things
to be ok for Rosie and her baby. I hoped that they would make that
connection. A better cattleman than I probably could have done more.
may have been able to do less. But I had done what I could do.
woke up to the sun shining and birds singing. No snow remained. It
was as if the night before had never happened. And there in the field
were Rosie and her calf. He nursed hungrily. She licked him enough to
make him annoyed. Then she got cross and mooed at him when he tried
to wander away. When I tried to pet the calf she stepped between us.
I am welcome to pet her neck and bring her treats. But that is her
baby, thank you very much.
didn’t make that happen. I tried to help. Maybe I did; maybe I
didn’t. But I did what I could because that is what I had
promised to do when I chose to have animals. When we bought Rosie we
were promising to do our best. When we bred Rosie we were promising
to sit in the snow and hold her baby. Whether I can make
everything right or not it is my responsibility to try.
matter. Not because I am earning salvation. But because I am keeping
my word. If I choose to take upon me the name of Christ, I am
promising to do my best to love as he did.
may be able to do more. Some may be able to do less. It will
always be imperfect. The salvation that comes is salvation from
selfishness or from cowardice or helplessness in those moments. I am
saved from a small life that revolves around me.
then I have faith. I have faith that the little thing that was the
very best I can do will be swallowed up in the infinite perfection that
is offered me. Faith will bring me redemption. But works help me
redeem my days. Because when I sit on the frozen ground, soaked with
snow gently trying and trying again, I am a better me.
I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people
get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are
fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.
I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.