At some point in my early childhood, I took to wearing a dark red, felt cowboy hat. It was large even for my over-sized melon, but I wore it often and wore it with pride. Even after the day it had a fateful encounter with a ditch full of water.
My brother Dan and his friend, Danny (another one of my "older brothers"), were using me as a participant in an experiment they were conducting on human aerodynamics. Danny (I think) had grabbed one of my arms and one of my legs and was spinning in a circle temporarily providing me with the gift of flight, all the while, I was proudly wearing my beloved cowboy hat.
As I neared the sound barrier in my circular flight pattern, the G-forces on my cranium exceeded it’s capacity to grip my hat and suddenly, my beloved felt head covering was also floating through the air. In a moment seared into my memory, I still see the wide-brimmed beauty returning to earth and landing in the neighbors ditch, that just happened to be full of water. In my first book, Project Joseph, I described the scene like this: “She (my daughter BJ) produced an ocean of big, hot tears like I did at her age when my favorite cowboy hat was carelessly launched from head into a mud puddle...oh the agony!”
There are some who say the scream produced from my lungs that day actually registered on the richter scale. Windows at my neighbors’ houses shattered. Dogs started barking from miles away and the world mourned the permanently disfigured, dark red, felt cowboy hat that came forth from that dark pond.
And you better believe I still wore it with pride.
It’s funny how attached we can get to things in this life. Why an 8-year-old boy fell in love with a red felt cowboy hat is beyond me. (As I write this I glanced up to my closet and see a collection of a dozen baseball caps -- I’m beginning to think I have a hat-issue.) But all of us have those things we cling to -- that stuff that just means the world to us. My sister had a bear that she still keeps close by her bed. The thing has leprosy and yet she loves her “Tenny” to this day.
Cowboy hats and Teddy Bears might seem childish to you, but that’s just because we haven’t exposed what you’re clinging to. Maybe it’s a nice set of golf clubs, a new car, the clothes in your closet, the phone in your pocket or the ring on your finger. It could be something a little less tangible but still consuming. You know, like your job, or the current relationship you are in or even the money in your wallet or bank account. As we get older, we’re still just as possessive and clingy as ever, it’s just that the expense of those items is higher; the value of them runs deeper into our psyche.
I can look back now and see how silly it was to love that cowboy hat like I did. In 20 more years, I wonder if I’ll look back to today and see the same silliness directed toward another "Cowboy Hat?"
In 2014 I’m “running my race” in every sense of the word. Physically I’m joining my wife in a 1/2 marathon in October, so I’m working hard to reclaim some healthy habits and lifestyle changes to get me there. Mentally I’m working on my third book, preparing to re-launch Overboard Ministries with a new logo, new web site and some big God-sized goals. Spiritually I’m trying to reclaim some important habits, working on leading my family to connect passionately and regularly with God and eager to build a deeper life of prayer and devotion.
Throughout this year’s race, Hebrews 12:1-2 is serving as my daily mantra: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...” There are so many “things that hinder” my race every day, and the writer of Hebrews urges me to throw them off! He challenges me to get rid of anything that would come between me and keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.
Now that I’m a closet runner, I’m making choices about food and exercise in order to make sure I’m ready for race day in October. In making some of these changes I’ve begun to realize how much some of these choices have a hold on my life. I’m realizing how deep some of my bad eating habits are, and how much I use junk-food like a drug to get me through the day. It’s not that eating a Big Mac is wrong, it’s just that it’s not helping me get where I want to be.
In the Overboard Life, God calls us to sacrifice much of what we can see and feel in order to step out in faith and focus on the One who walks on water! I know this -- I’ve spent too many days in the boat clinging to stuff that seemed so important to me, instead of trusting God for the next step. I’ve wept over many “Cowboy Hats” in my life, only to realize later how little those things really meant to me.
What are you clinging to? Are you holding so tightly on to something that you are still at the starting line? What you think is a treasure, is really an anchor, and instead of holding it close-fisted, you need to release it to God in order to run your race. It’s not that God wants to take everything away from us, it’s that He wants us to keep Him #1, to keep Him as the greatest object of our affections.
Over the past 40-years I can see a lot of stuff that has come between me and God. If God grants me another 40 years, I want to make sure I have fewer and fewer “Cowboy Hats,” and with His help, I want to have a more precise vision of the things that really matter. I know a life with God allows me to experience deeper joy, greater satisfaction and a peaceful contentment that only comes from Him, and only comes when I keep Him front and center in my life.
Is it time to get rid of a few Cowboy Hats in your life? I know I’m ready for God to grab me by the arms and legs, spin me in a crazy and wild adventure for Him, all the while letting my Cowboy Hats fly off into the sunset.
7 down, 33 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge (your Cowboy Hats need to be cleaned, anyway!), life is always better on the water!