Ever since I bought myself a pair of cowboy boots for my birthday last fall, I have had that Toby Keith song, Should’ve Been A Cowboy, in my head. Daddy did always say that he wanted to teach us to “Ride hard, shoot straight, and speak the truth.” [Later we added “drive stick shift” to the list.] The “ride hard” part was always figurative. In recent years, though, I have become interested in learning to ride. This has led to a plan to go to a dude ranch. One of the first things I discovered was that, in order to ride, you need proper boots. And so it was that I purchased myself a pair of genuine Western style cowboy boots.
What I didn’t expect was how “at home” I would feel wearing these boots. It is as though I have discovered something that was missing. Now, when I wear them, I catch myself humming that song. I finally looked up the song online because I could only remember the chorus. It was even more appropriate than I thought. It’s about freedom and adventure – a life that isn’t tied to one person or one place. Of course, it is also about the romance of the Old West, which probably wasn’t nearly as romantic as it’s made out to be. Still, there is a sense of the freedom and independence that made America great, and made the West a land of opportunity, back in the day.
As I’ve matured, I have become increasingly independent. In fact, at times I catch myself being stubbornly so. I recognize this stubbornness in my Daddy. I think he would agree that it stems from a determination to get done what needs to be done. Perhaps he and I would have fit in better in the Old West, where independence was a requirement to survive, and you could wear your side arm on your belt and carry your rifle in a saddle scabbard. I knew I was Daddy’s girl when I was driving past a church whose sign read, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” and the first thing I thought of was the Colt Peacemaker (in spite of the fact that I memorized the Beatitudes when I was ten).
Part of me does long for adventure. It’s the part of me that chose to go to the Coast Guard Academy when I was seventeen, thinking that I needed to travel and have some experiences in life before I settled down to have a family. I wish that I would have had the same spirit and determination then. I might have made more of my opportunities. But when I was young, I had the wrong sort of independence. I was trying to choose my own experiences and make my life more romantic than it was. I didn’t look to God to lead and direct me; I second-guessed His plans for me and trusted my own wisdom. I brought a lot of disappointment and unhappiness on myself as a result. In hindsight, God was with me all the time in spite of my attempts to leave Him out. He watched over me and protected me in all my foolishness.
What God has tried to teach me in the twenty years since, is that I really can’t succeed at anything on my own. My success or failure is in His hands. And success or failure isn’t about whether I am a good enough believer, but about God’s will for my life and the plan He has to mature me and use me for His glory. Depending on Him, and finding my strength in Him, I can have joy, even in my failures and difficulties.
Some of the first verses that I remember learning as a child, were Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. The verses we learn as children can become wrote, and we can take them for granted. I spent decades not really thinking about what these verses meant. But isn’t the heart of the message to live in a way that depends on God? Trusting in Him, depending on His wisdom to guide us, we then show evidence of Him in how we live, and He leads us in the right way. To some extent, we can get away with being independent of other people. But trying to live without God will never prosper us; we will wander a crooked path, stumbling as we go.
When I finally make it to Montana, I hope to find out for sure if I was really meant to be a cowgirl. Who but God knows what adventure is yet to come in my life? Every time I wear my boots, I think about a time to come when I will put my left boot in the stirrup, swing my right leg over, and see if I do have a future out on the open range. If I get to live a bit of the cowboy life that the Toby Keith sings about, I am determined to depend on God and not myself. If I’m going to be a cowgirl, I want to be God’s cowgirl!