Cussing the Cow and Changing a Life

It was sometime in the mid to late fifties— that idyllic time between the Korean War and the turbulent sixties. I was in the barn on our farm home in Southeast Missouri with my father. He was trying to milk a cow whose calf was stillborn and whose udder was swelling painfully from the abundant milk not being used. She was a young, fearful heifer who had never been milked and was no doubt painfully aware in some way that animals understand but cannot communicate, that her calf was gone. She was afraid of us and probably in extreme pain, and the last thing she wanted was for somebody to milk her. She didn’t understand what Dad was trying to do and she did everything she could to prevent him from doing it, including kicking wickedly with her hind feet.

Dad was suffering from some of the licks she had gotten in and was about as angry as you could get. Some of the words I heard him say that day were not appropriate for a Christian to say and I was surprised to hear them. Dad had become a Christian just a few years before and I didn’t think he talked like that any more. I was, to say the least, a little bit shocked.

After more than an hour or so he got her milked enough that she was out of danger and finally got her to accept another calf he had purchased at the sale barn to replace the calf that had died. It was a tense, action packed morning, but it was finally over and came to what appeared to be (and later proved to be) a satisfactory conclusion. And then the most amazing thing happened.

My father, who has never been a particularly articulate man, apologized to me for the language he had used. Rather awkwardly and stumbling a little with his words, he said something like this. “Rick, I know I said some things this morning that a Christian shouldn’t say. I lost my temper and used words I’m ashamed of. I’m sorry you had to hear it. I hope you know it's not right for a Christian to talk like that. I’m trying to live a Christian life and I’m doing the best I can, but sometimes I fail pretty bad.”

I don’t remember if I answered Dad or responded in any way to his apology. I think I was too dumbfounded to speak. I also don’t remember any of the bad words he used. I know he didn’t use God’s name in vain, but they were words he did not think appropriate for a Christian. What I do remember vividly was the humility of my father and the honor he showed me by his apology. There were times when that memory helped me ask my children to forgive my shortcomings. It was much easier for me because I had his example. Dad saw himself as a failure that day, but I’m convinced his heavenly Father was justifiably proud, as was I, that this fledgling Christian was growing into a genuine man of God and helping me along in the process.

I don’t remember ever again hearing my Dad use inappropriate language. Apologizing may or may not have helped him, but I know it was life-changing for me and helped me be a better father.

Quite often the things my heavenly Father teaches me have come through my earthly father. Thanks, Dad. We were blessed to be your children.

Rick is a Minister, Church Planter, Author, & Speaker. He has three published books and several unpublished manuscripts. You can connect with him on his blog at

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