Rodeo Tales and God Stories: What Christians can learn from Rough Stock Riders
Rough Stock riders have the best stories. One of my favorite activities at youth rodeos is to watch the roughies interact and go about their business. Whether a kid rides bulls, sheep, steers, or calves, they all have the same walk: “the bullriders limp”. When asked, they will assuredly be able to give you an account of the size, type, and temperament of the animal and how they came to acquire their limp. Young bullfighters are the same way. Daniel and I’s help at the youth rodeos, Judd “the Stud” Pope, age 7, is always beat up from some hooky calf or temperamental steer. He is usually nursing some kind of injury that always has as story behind it. Ropers are the same way when they talk about their horses. Every roper has a story about them and their horse, an injury that their horse has overcome, or a quick run made possible by the horsepower they ride. That being said, older rodeo contestants aren’t any better. We all have stories about rides, runs, animals, and traveling partners. My favorite stories to tell, be it injuries, travels, or accomplishments, seem to have rodeo as a backdrop. Rodeo People are proud of their stories…and more Christians should be! Stories are deeply personal and intimate. Stories communicate our character, reveal our passions, and express our emotions. When someone tells you their story, you know what makes them tick. The men of Scripture knew this.
The Bible begins with 10 toldoth’s (heb. “this is the account of ________”) in the book of Genesis. These “accounts” are the stories of what brought Israel into Egypt, a story that Moses was very familiar with telling. David, when trying to persuade Saul to let him fight Goliath, doesn’t offer him an itemized list of his strengths, but tells Saul his story: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it…The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 17.34-35, 37) Paul, when on trial, summons his chief witness of God’s power, himself, and tells his story before King Agrippa (Acts 26) and an angry crowd (Acts 22). Scattered throughout his Epistles, Paul inserts his story into key places to connect with his audience, to spread the gospel, and to illustrate his teaching. In 2 Corinthians he discusses his struggles (2 Cor. 11.16-12.10) and Galatians its his receiving of the gospel (Gal. 1.11-24). In Ephesians 3 he argues for the grace and message given him (Eph 3) in the same way he criticizes confidence in the flesh in Philippians 3.4-10. With the Thessalonians he makes it clear that he set an “example” for them, a “model” for them to follow. (1 Thes. 1.5;2.9; 2 Thes. 3.7-9). And with Timothy he doesn’t even need to tell the story, because like all good wingmen, Timothy was with him for much of them. (2 Tim 1.13; 2.2; 3.10-11) Paul’s story gives guidance to his message, background to his teaching, and insight to his words. But there is one thing it cant do.
The stories of others can inspire us to action (think of the last scene of Braveheart and William Wallace’s effect on Robert DeBruce) but it doesn’t usually change the way we view ourselves. When Paul wants Timothy to remain strong, to act, and to stay the course, Paul reminds him not of his story, but of Timothy’s. In 2 Timothy 1, Paul brings up Timothy’s story. “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1.5-6) Timothy “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures…” (2 Tim. 3.14-15)
Our stories have the ability to bring people closer to God, to challenge them to follow Christ closer, and to give hope to those struggling. Our stories bring color to the message we live out and preach, amplification to God’s interaction with man, and testimony to a life lived with God. Our story is a powerful tool that God can use…but only if we know it, if we own it. I challenge you to put it into words. Attached to this post is a handout on how to effectively articulate God’s work in our lives. Take some time this week, as a devotional exercise, to put your story onto paper. Someone might need your story (God’s story in your life) this week!
Testimony Tips: Testimony Tips–How to write your testimony