Monday, March 12, 2012

True Man - Cowboy

When I was growing up, the quintessential cowboy was John Wayne. He was tough, he was rough, he was good (for the most part – only playing the bad guy in a handful of roles).

For American boys growing up in the 20th century, John Wayne was the role-model if they wanted to be tough, courageous, and especially if they wanted to be cowboys.

In John Eldredge’s The Way of the Wild Heart (modified and republished as Fathered by God) he notes five “seasons” that every man goes through in their life. The first season is “Boyhood,” which I wrote about in True Man – Wild Man. The second season is “The Cowboy.”

The cowboy season is full of adventure and excitement, just like in Boyhood. But now the stakes are higher. The danger is greater. But if Boyhood is lived successfully, the danger is not too high.

One of the most popular of “cowboy songs” is Don’t Fence Me In by Cole Porter and Bob Fletcher.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in

Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in

“Don’t fence me in.” A characteristic of the settling of the “Old West” in America was the lure of it having no boundaries.

In the 1960’s – when Baby Boomers started to have children of their own, many of these parents decided to raise their children without boundaries. “We must give our kids freedom – freedom to explore their world, themselves. That way they can figure out who they are, decide for themselves what is right and wrong, make up their own minds about how they should live.” The epitome of this philosophy was Dharma Finkelstein on Chuck Lorre TV show “Dharma and Greg.”

The problem with this is that if there are no boundaries, then there is no safety.

“Boundaries” can be many things, rules, regulations, curfews, limited allowances, etc.

But boundaries are not fences to keep the cowboy in, but are fences to keep danger out.

Let’s be clear. We cannot shelter our kids, we cannot be sheltered ourselves, from the dangerous world. That isn’t the point of boundaries. The true “cowboy” stage is that we know our limitations. We are free to explore – without fear of dying – within the boundaries set up around us.

Being a cowboy means living in the world. Boundaries don’t keep us safe from the world, they help us learn how to be safe, how to live, in the world.

Jesus Christ came to free us from sin with his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection from the dead. Jesus freed us from the sin that enslaved us. Jesus freed us from the power of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.

But this isn’t freedom in the sense that “we can do what we want, with no boundaries.”

The most famous set of boundaries in the history of the world is the Ten Commandments.

But when Jesus sets us free from sin through his blood and righteousness, the Ten Commandments become boundaries of safety for us. Through the freedom Jesus gives us, the Law of God becomes our trusty guide.

It is something like the railings around the observation areas on the rim of the Grand Canyon or at Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park (I wrote about this in a blog post called “For Your Safety”).

Rather than stifling adventure, they make the adventures we live as Cowboys safe while still being dangerous.

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