ALBANY, Texas – The winter is breaking now along the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, a hardscrabble land of limestone ridges, draws and dry creek beds dotted with mesquite and a prickly pear cactus. On the vast ranches that drape over the brush-covered uplands, the annual roundup has begun. These are hectic days, the time to bring in the new calves, vaccinate, dehorn, brand and castrate them.
And just as it has for generations, this grueling work will be done by a hardy breed, the cowboy, who stands tall and handsome in American mythology. He is the subject of countless John Ford films, cigarette advertisements and lonesome ballads—a John Wayne figure hunched over in the saddle, snorting against the morning cold; a romantic, masculine symbol of freedom, strength and the pioneer spirit.
Though the movie myths were distorted, the cowboy and his spirit survive. He may drive to work in a pickup truck, carry his horse to the pasture in a trailer, sometimes round up the cows with a helicopter and pop a cassette in a VCR when he relaxes at night after a meal cooked in a microwave oven.
But his basic tools of the trade are the same: the trusty mount, the lariat, spurs and bits, chaps, dusty Wrangler jeans and a battered cowboy hat.
Cowboys are basically the same – they’ve just adjusted their life styles and work habits. They are genuine, hard-working people who believe in what they are doing.
There’s something about a cowboy riding tall in the saddle. He looks like a man. Every inch a man. Over the years he has become our symbol of strong mankind.
Pickup trucks have not replaced the working cowboy on horseback. And you still have to be rugged to ride the range. As one old cowhand put it, “If you’re gonna work cattle in this kinda country, you gotta be tougher’n it is.”
Those who know cowboys best, praise “the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other.’’ No wonder the cowboy has been hailed as “America’s most popular folk hero.” They are real men.
One of the basic qualities of real manhood is leadership. Years ago, a veteran ranch foreman gave some wise advice on leadership. “Boys,” he drawled, “the secret of trailing cattle is never to let your herd know that they are being driven. Let them do everything voluntarily, but always keep them moving toward their destination.” This way the herd could cover fifteen or twenty miles per day while enjoying all the freedom of the open range.
This is also a description of well-balanced leadership for life today.
TOUGH AND TENDER
Good leadership requires that we be tough, strong, bold and determined. A man ought to stand up, speak out and tell it like it is. He should give positive direction to his family and others for whom he is responsible. Yet he should be gentle, kind and considerate so that they enjoy real freedom. Strong manhood is both “tough and tender.”
Manliness has the strength to command. Yet a truly strong man refuses to use this power selfishly. Such a man really rides tall.
But who has this balance? We all were born out of balance. We’re either too tough or too soft. We have too much velvet or too much steel.
Actually, only one Man ever possessed the qualities of manhood in perfect balance: Jesus Christ, God’s Son. He demonstrated the strength of steel when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple. But He was supremely gentle when He wept over the calamity that would fall on those who rejected Him.
He endured the cross. Yet with the tenderest and most unselfish love He forgave those who nailed Him there.
THE GIFT OF NEW LIFE
Christ came into the world to offer new life to each of us, man or woman, boy or girl. He taught His disciples that real leaders are not to dominate their followers. Instead, the leader is a servant. He demonstrated this by washing their feet. That was the lowest service.
We admire Him for such perfect balance. But can we break our old mold? Can we be changed to fit this new image? The answer is “yes!”
When “God created man, in the likeness of God made He him,” Genesis 5:1b. God’s Own character was stamped on Adam.
But Adam sinned. He rebelled against God. Cut off from God, Adam lost his balance. He no longer had the relationship required to maintain his balance.
Adam passed this warped nature on to his children. “Adam… begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth,” Genesis 5:3 And we are in that same line and bear the same warped nature.
But Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came into the world as perfect Man to create a new mold for a new manhood. He lived a perfect life. Then He died for our sins. He rose from the grave to share His life with others.
THE ONLY ANSWER
How can a person claim the new life that Christ offers? If you have not already done so, the first thing you need to do is to change your attitude toward God. You need to recognize that turning away from God in unbelief has cut you off from God.
You must repent of this unbelief and turn to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, in faith. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, (Jesus Christ) that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 Put your trust in Christ alone for salvation. Everyone who believes in Him has eternal life. Without Him, you perish forever.
Quietly talk to God in your own words. Confess that you have been wrong in not trusting in Christ. The Bible says, “As many as received Him, Jesus Christ, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” John 1:12
Do this and discover new freedom. Christ sets you free from the pressures of people around you and from the passions of your own selfish nature.
NO CARBON COPY, BUT SOMEONE SPECIAL
And, as you allow the grace of Christ to work in your life, you will not become a carbon copy of others. You will not lose your own unique individuality. You will be freed to be your own unique self at its best.
Yes, you can “ride tall.” You can be a real person wherever God puts you. But you must make that first decisive move. Why not turn to Christ in faith today?
The following prayer is an example of one that you can use as you come to God. “Dear Heavenly Father. I come to You, confessing that I have sinned and broken Your laws. I am sorry for my sin, and believe that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for me and my sins and rose again from the dead that I too might have eternal life. Please forgive me. I invite You into my life, and give Jesus Christ the right to take control of the rest of my life. Please help me to be what You want me to be. I thank you for saving me and accepting me and I pray this in Jesus’ name.” Amen!