Well, not really... In fact, we didn't talk about anything remotely like a rodeo....
However... What we did talk about can be illustrated through one specific part of the wonderful world of rodeo.
Matt and I love to go to the rodeo. Matt likes to ride and rope in them, and for now I just like to watch. (Maybe someday soon I'll rope with him, but that's a different story)
So anywho, we like the rodeo. Particularly fun to watch is the rough stock riding. And my husbands favorite part of the rough stock riding is definitely not the bull riding. Not the saddle bonc riding, not even the bare back riding. It's watching the pickup men. Some of you might be saying "who??"
Well, the pickup men are the hardest working, least known men of the rodeo. They ride throughout the entire rodeo doing a little bit of everything, wrangling wayward calves after the calf roping, roping and dragging one-ton bulls out of the arena, they are behind the scenes kinda guys. They are in the arena from start to finish, but if there aren't any wrecks, the fans hardly ever even notice them.
A pickup man's main duty is to be a hero. They are responsible for rescuing the cowboy after his 8 second ride. They have to ride up right along the bucking horse in order to let the rider safely dismount, sometimes reaching speeds close to 30 mph! Cody Wright, world champion saddle bronc rider, even went as far as to say that a cowboys life depends on the pickup man, saying that you don't even want to ride unless you have a good pickup man. People get hurt in rodeo all the time, and pickup men can be there to quickly and safely put a cowboy back on his feet. It takes a special sort of cowboy to be a pickup man. They are great horsemen who can probably even rope better than most competitors. But they are the only riders out there not riding for themselves, as they are willing to risk their own safety in order to help others. After they have safely gotten the cowboy off the bucking beast, then they have to quickly get the gear off the horse and get it out of the arena. Only when the rider and the horse are safely out of harms way can the pickup man think about himself. A pickup man is the real cowboy of the rodeo; humble, gentle, and patient, earning every ounce of respect that could be given to a cowboy.
Photo by Ronald Erdrich
So... How does this relate to what my pastor and sunday school teacher spoke about in church today?
Today we studied Ephesians chapter 4, Unity in the Body of Christ and 1John chapter 1, Walking in the Light.. As Christians, we have a calling to live up to. It is a high privilege to have been chosen, to have been saved by grace. Our salvation comes with responsibility. We need to know how to live for The Lord, how to use the Spirit that's within us to stand against the devils schemes and to help our brothers in Christ. We need to walk in the light and have fellowship with one another (1John 1:7). We need to care for one another, to talk to each other about our problems and struggles, and to seek The Lord together for His help and guidance. We need to show others the light that we know and the light that we follow. And we need to do so humbly and gently and patiently (Eph 4:2).
Now, as my pastor said, we think we fellowship with one another quite often. We meet up for luncheons, or we call each other on the phone, we even meet for coffee before church. But that is not true fellowship. True fellowship is asking our friends and our families how they are doing, what they are struggling with, and how we can pray for them. And we need to share the love and the light with the friends around us that don't have Christ in their lives. It is our responsibility to help others find Christ , to live our lives so that people may look at us and think, "I want what she has" or "He must know something I don't know". We know how much God loves us, that it is in fact an immeasurable love. And we need to help save each other. Now, I know that Christ's sacrifice is what saves you and I, that his death and resurrection allows for our sins to be forgiven. But we can help save one another by sharing his promises, by sharing his word and his love. By fellowship. By humble, gentle and patient fellowship.
So, here's how pickup men are like Christians.
A pickup man has his calling to live up to. He is entrusted with certain responsibilities, just as we as Christians have responsibilities. He needs to be attentive to his riders, to his stock. And we need to be attentive to our fellow Christians and our friends who may not have yet come to Christ. We need to know how to use the Spirit to help us with these responsibilities, just as a pickup man uses his experience and training to help him with his. And we need to do so humbly, gently and patiently. The pickup man is so efficient, so gentle that the audience rarely even sees him. He swoops in, protects the cowboy, protects the horse, and is hardly ever noticed. The glory is given all to the cowboy. The pickup man doesn't take off his hat and throw it into the air, he doesn't receive the cheering from the crowd. He sits patiently off to the side, ready for the next rider. Like the pickup man, we need to be so gentle to our friends. We need to give our friends the tools they need in their walk with Christ, and we need to humbly give all the glory to God when our friend finds his way. We need to watch our other friends, fellowship with them, and make sure that we share all our knowledge of how to live and stand as Christians. And if our friends are not yet ready to receive our message, then we need to be patient. Sometimes the pickup man doesn't get his rider off as planned. Sometimes it seems as if the cowboy is right there, ready to be grabbed, when something changes the pattern of the horse, he stops bucking or changes directions. The pickup man doesn't get discouraged - he knows he has a job to do and knows he has the tools to get it done. He tries until his rider is safe on the ground and the horse is out of the arena. The pickup man cares for his rider, then the rough stock, and then himself. And like a pickup man, we should fall last on our priority list. We need to fellowship with God, then with our friends and family. Our fellow man needs to come before us. Finally, a pickup man is not riding in the arena for his gain, for his glory. He is risking injury to himself in order to help others. Like a pickup man, we do not live this life for ourselves. We need to be living for God, for His work, and for His glory. And like pickup men, sometimes there will be hurt along the way. Pickup men get into wrecks, get rammed by stock, or get hurt just like other cowboys. But the injuries are worth it, because they helped save other cowboys. We might get laughed at or mocked when we try to fellowship with friends and share our knowledge of Christ with others, but if we help to bring Gods glory to even one other person, it will be worth it. We know we have responsibilities that come with our salvation, but we also know that through God and his Spirit, we have the tools needed to live up to our calling as Christians. We need to be the humble and gentle pickup men in this arena that we ride in.
Photo by Alice Outwater
And as I write this, I know that I need to be better at sharing this light that I know and love, to be better at truly fellowshipping with others around me. My husband and I pray that we may be better at living this Christian life, and we know that it is only possible with His help.
The next time you're at a rodeo, watch the pickup men. I promise, you won't be disappointed. You'll be watching the best cowboys out there!