I was driving down the road the other day, listening to tunes and pondering life when these two songs came on, back-to-back. The first song: “Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won. I fought the law and the law won…” The second song: A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm, a boy filled with wanderlust who really meant no harm. He changed his clothes and shined his boots and combed his dark hair down, and his mother cried as he walked out “Don’t take your guns to town, son, leave your guns at home, Bill. Don’t take your guns to town.” I have to tell you; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It brought back memories but also made me reflect on life (been doing a lot of that lately).
Talking about memories, if you ever were through the Central Wisconsin area (around Black River Falls) in the early 80’s, you would have witnessed my work (and others). As part of being incarcerated at the Black River Falls Correctional Institution, one of the jobs was to prune dead and lower branches off the pine trees (and some other trees) in the County and State Forests in the area. We would go out early in the morning on the chain gang (we were called a chain gang but there were no chains) and cut limbs. It was hot and hard work, but I enjoyed it (most of the time). It was just great to be outside. We had long pole saws (not gas) and the work definitely built up your muscles. However, there was one unexpected downside to all of this. They came out of the lower brush, they were hidden and they came with a vengeance. Young men would cry out, shaking with fear. Some refused to work. They came by the thousands (or it seemed like it). Yes, the attack of the walking sticks. Ok, they wouldn’t attack but they would walk all over you.
Guys from the city had never heard of them or seen them and us country boys had seen them, but not in large numbers. Sometimes it was only a dozen or so on us, but it seemed like a lot more. They didn’t bite but if you tried picking them up (instead of flicking them off), they left some kind of nasty substance that was very foul-smelling. It was horrible!
Why did I share this with you and what observations can I take from this to pass on to you?
First of all, please, please don’t take your guns to town. Violence, rage, revenge does not accomplish anything. It only makes matters worse. People will be hurt including yourself. Please do not think that life is not worth living because it is. There are people who care and who are willing to help you through whatever you may be going through.
Secondly, when we make the wrong decision, we must take responsibility for that decision. You might even find yourself on a “chain gang”, but even then, there is hope. I will tell you, as Johnny Cash sang so well: “There ain’t no good chain gang.” This is so true. Although it was great being outside, trimming those trees was hard work and sometimes we complained. But one guard would remind us: “Complain all you want but you put yourself here.” Guess what? He was right! And I do NOT want to do it again! But the truth is, the chains are gone because of Jesus Christ. Can I hear an “Amen!”?
Finally, many times in life it will seem like the odds are against you and that you believe you cannot make it through – but you can with God’s help and strength. Sometimes no matter which way you look, your problems are hanging all over you and you try to flick them away, but they are still there. Sometimes you grab hold of them, and it just seems to get worse. But then you give it to God and with God’s strength you push forward and soon the problems are behind you.
It’s like Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit. He has only one arrow left to kill Smaug the Dragon. His bow is broke, so he puts the string on two pieces of the tower and rests the arrow on his son’s shoulder. His son is afraid, shaking with fear and Bard says: “Look at me, just look at me!” The son knows he can trust his father and he settles down. That’s what we need to do when we are afraid or in the midst of problems, worries or anxieties. We must focus on God and God will calm us.
God bless and God’s got this!