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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Don't Get Thrown

By Duke Edwards with Scott Harrup
June 20, 2010

The bull that broke my neck in April 2001 was my first ride since an injury a year before. He was 1,600 pounds of mean. Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t look for something smaller to switch off the pause button of my rodeo career. But small bulls present their own set of problems.

An average bull rider is less than 6 feet tall. I’m 6 feet 4 inches. If my feet are anywhere close to the ground, that spells trouble. A year before my career-ending ride, a short bull stepped on my spur and kicked me. At the hospital, I found out I’d broken my foot and torn my Achilles tendon. The doctors couldn’t cast my foot. It was going to have to heal on its own.

By April 2001 my foot was finally healing, and I wanted to get back into shape. A friend offered to let me practice at his ranch. My first ride headed toward the fence, momentarily distracting me. As I shifted my focus from the bull to the fence, the bull turned. I flipped off and landed on the back of my head.

I got up and dusted myself off. I had no idea how badly I was hurt. Fortunately, I was in enough pain that I didn’t try to ride another bull.

Three months later, I was in Cheyenne, Wyo., to see a neurologist about headaches I’d been having.

“Are you Duke?” the doctor asked as he came into the room.

“Yes, were you expecting someone else?”

“To be honest, yes,” he said. Then he began asking me to move around the room and perform different tasks with my hands.

I felt like I was in a dog and pony show. “Why all the gymnastics?” I asked.

“You broke your neck,” he said bluntly. He went on to explain, as he put up my X-ray images, that my third vertebra had been crushed by the second and fourth when my head hit the ground. My body had absorbed most of the bone debris, leaving a black hole on the X-ray. One bone fragment had shot through my spinal cord. Miraculously, I showed no signs of paralysis or nerve damage.

The doctor said he had never seen someone live through the kind of injury I had suffered. He was amazed I was walking around. There was no medical solution for my injury other than to place rods in my neck and permanently immobilize me. I decided if God had protected me for the previous three months, He would continue to care for me.

But my bull riding days were over. If I ever landed on my head again, my spinal cord would snap.

I haven’t been on a bull for more than nine years, but I’ve been on another ride that’s just as thrilling and doesn’t let up with an 8-second rodeo buzzer. That last bull ride has taught me some powerful lessons about my lifelong ride as a dad.

1. You can’t make it without God.

The neurologist in Cheyenne was right. I should have died from my injuries. Had God not intervened, I wouldn’t be here.

I often think about this promise from God: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15, NIV). That’s especially true with the challenges of parenting.

Fatherhood has never been harder than it is today. Our culture has largely forgotten God, and there are countless threats to our children’s souls all around us. I trust God daily to give me the wisdom to keep my children — daughter McKenna and sons Collin and Joel — on His path.

If you try to ride the twists and turns of fatherhood on your own, you’ll get thrown for sure. On those days when your job is pulling you in one direction and your family in another, you need a Source of strength and wisdom who can empower you to meet all of those demands.

2. Life is full of the unexpected.
During my rodeo days, I found that the easiest bulls to ride were those that went in one direction. They would spin to the right or left consistently. It’s the bull that suddenly changes direction that can throw you.

When you raise your family, you can count on life to change direction. You need to be connected to the God who is never taken by surprise, the God who brings something good out of your most challenging circumstances.

Job could say of God in complete faith, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Romans 8:28 assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Beth and I were married in January 2001. In the years following my accident, we directed all of our energy into ministry. We welcomed our three children into the world. We planted and pastored a steadily growing Cowboy Church in Wray, Colo. Life was good.

Then in spring of 2009 our well dried up. Overnight, our property was worthless, and we had nowhere near the money needed to pipe in water. The bank foreclosed our home, but couldn’t sell the property without water. We ended up declaring bankruptcy.

Perhaps this economy is putting your job on the line. Maybe medical bills or other unexpected debt is threatening your ability to make your house payment. Don’t give up. Believe that God sees your situation and has a solution.

3. God always has another option.
I’m currently ministering at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, N.D., helping to mentor young church planters. As fulfilling as my ministry in Colorado was, there’s not a doubt in my mind about God’s leading our family today. Through bankruptcy and a lost home, God pointed us toward His next step for our lives.

A huge part of parenting is helping your children to dust themselves off when life slams them to the ground. They need to see that today’s crisis is not the end. New opportunities are around the corner.

Immerse your children in God’s Word. Help them take hold of a personal faith at a young age as they read of God’s faithfulness through the ages.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6,7).

4. Kids need strong dads.
I believe people admire a bull rider because of the toughness he displays. He’s willing to take on an animal that outweighs him 10 to 1. I’ll always remember the thrill during my rodeo days of hearing the 8-second buzzer, jumping off of a thrashing three-quarter-ton opponent and thinking, Is that all you can do?

Symbolically, bull riders conquer a powerful foe on behalf of all the onlookers in the audience. In a very real way, dads conquer powerful foes for the sake of their wives and children. Families need strong, conquering dads who will go the distance to pray for and lead and protect them.

Dad, your family is relying on you. And the only way you’re going to honor their trust is if you rely on your Heavenly Father. Draw close to God in prayer, in studying His Word, in building close relationships with other followers of Christ.

“Fathers, … bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

If you follow your Father in your life as a father, you’ll never get thrown.

DUKE EDWARDS is a U.S. missionary with the Assemblies of God mentoring church planters at Trinity Bible College.

SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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