21st Century Cowboy

Before I thought about being a doctor or an archeologist, I wanted to be a cowboy.  I found my first pair of cowboy boots under the Christmas tree when I was six.  They were black.  The shafts were turquoise.  Loved those boots.

My heroes were Roy Rogers and John Wayne.  The Lone Ranger too.  Something about the horses they rode.  Something about the wide open spaces.  Something about the cattle, and the campfire and the chuck wagon and sleeping under a night sky full of stars.   And, of course, there was always the struggle between good and evil.

It was pretty clear back then.  The good guys and bad guys were easy to tell apart.

One of my favorite movies is Tombstone.  And my favorite scene is when Wyatt Earp and his two brothers along with Doc Holiday are walking down that dusty street side by side.  They’re headed for the OK Corral.  And bad guys are waiting for them.

Is there gonna be a fight?  You bet.  But are the good guys gonna win?   Of course.

I miss the old Westerns where the bad guys wore black hats and the music always let you know when trouble was coming.

Real life can be much more complicated.  But I remind my students that – just like in an old western – there are still things worth fighting for – things worth standing for.

Jesus – and His message of redemption and sacrifice and love – is one of those things.  I cling to this doctrinal truth – that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins, so I could become His child – a child of the King.  And because He died for me, I take up my cross and follow Him.  I die to myself so that I can become more and more like Jesus – so that I can wrap my arms around more and more of Him every day.

As a teacher, I want my students to succeed academically.  I want them to work hard.  I want them to understand that by entering into the life of the university, they have become members of a vibrant academic community.

But, within this community, I want them to find a place where they can grow spiritually.  I want them to know that faith and learning can coexist – that all knowledge is a gift from God.  Daniel and his three friends in Babylon realized this when God gave them “an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the age” (1:17).  And when Paul celebrates the vastness of God in Romans, he lifts his voice and sings, “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (11:33).

Ultimately, I tell my students, the most important choice we will ever make is what we choose to believe to be true about God.  Is He good?  Is he loving?  Is he relevant?

This is why I teach at a Christ-centered university.  This is why strive to integrate my faith with my discipline.  And even though I’m a teacher, I guess I still fancy myself a cowboy, walking down a dangerous dusty street.  Armed with the power of God.  Shattering darkness.  Shedding light.  Sharing Jesus. 

Some dreams die hard I guess.  Which is why I’ll always own a pair of cowboy boots.