This Isn’t My First Metaphysical Rodeo

In my first year of law school I lived in the grad student dorms. Another resident was a Canadian medical student doing a year in California as part of her medical program at McGill University. Susan was from one of the western provinces of Canada and said she missed the riding and rodeos of her home.

Barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede (Wikipedia)

My sister, as it happened, had been working the Grand National Horse Show and Rodeo for years. The Grand National is held in San Francisco every fall and my sister always wants me to stop by, even if stopping by that year meant driving 90 minutes each way from my university. I told Susan of my connection and asked if she wanted to drive down with me.

Sis offered to leave a couple tickets for us at the gate, so we made the trip in my ’72 Ford Maverick. Conversation was what you’d expect: where’d you grow up, what do you think of the university, how many people are in your family. It was as ordinary, predictable and uninspiring as possible. Then, about half way there, Susan asked a question I’d never heard before.

“So Tim, what’s important to you?”

I looked at her, wondering if she’d be sorry she asked if she heard the real answer. So I gave her fair warning.

“This could get pretty metaphysical.” I waited to see how she’d take it.

“That’s all right, go ahead.”

Her answer pleased me for two reasons. First, she really wanted to talk and not just make conversation. Second, she knew what the word “metaphysical” means, which was good because I’d just learned it a week earlier and had been waiting to use it in a sentence.

Since she’d given me the go-ahead I figured I’d dive right in while I drove right along.

“I believe in Jesus.”

And from there I told her about my faith, how I got there less than a year earlier, and why this was important to me. We talked about spiritual matters the rest of the way to the rodeo. She didn’t get defensive about not having the same beliefs. This was just a conversation where we were each talking about what we thought important.

Being Ready for the Big Question

It reminds me of Peter’s advice:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect … . (1 Peter 3:15.)

You might be expecting the rodeo story to end with Susan’s declaration of faith, asking to be baptized in a rodeo horse trough like the Ethiopian official wanting to be baptized immediately by Philip in Acts 8.

That’s not what happened. But the way it did happen reminds me of another passage.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.” (John 4:34-37.)

A woman manually harvesting crops in Thirumayam, India. (Wikimedia)

Susan and I didn’t cross paths much after that and I don’t know what she thought of the conversation, or if she even thought about it again at all. I do know that if something was to come of it God would know how to make that happen. The responsibility for someone else’s spiritual growth is not mine to bear, as Paul said.

I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7.)

The responsibility I did have – and by God’s grace was able to carry out – was to answer Susan’s question, a literal real life opportunity to follow Peter’s advice to always be prepared to give an answer for my hope in Christ.

And after that whenever someone asked about my faith I could respond with confidence, “This isn’t my first rodeo.”


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15 Responses to This Isn’t My First Metaphysical Rodeo

  1. Christian-in-rehab says:

    Wow! I truly enjoyed this article.
    Many times, we get discouraged in sharing our faith, because we don’t see visible and immediate results.
    I’ve had people who I witnessed to, 10 years or more ago, chat me up on Facebook telling me they’ve embraced Jesus. That gives me joy. Particularly, for the fact that such embrace or conversion was a build-up of several seedings, and waterings.

  2. Pingback: This Isn’t My First Metaphysical Rodeo — Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another – CHRISTIAN IN REHAB

  3. Laura Droege says:

    What a terrific story to illustrate your point, Tim. I’ve had experiences like that: telling people about my faith, but not knowing what impact it had on their lives. In my all-too-human desire for control (and being overly curious by nature), I want to know the outcome and see the process of the person moving toward a relationship with Christ. But God doesn’t always allow me to know. It’s a good reminder that I am not the one who does the work! Keeps me humble.

    • Tim says:

      Life in Christ is an odd story where we know the ultimate conclusion but not all the steps that lead to the end. Then again, that type of knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain, as David said.

  4. joepote01 says:

    Great post, Tim! A really good reminder of how simple it is to share our faith.

    Plus…let’s be honest…any story that includes family, friends, horses, rodeos, and Jesus is worth telling! 🙂

    Here’s one of my rodeo stories:

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great post, Joe. I shared a link on Twitter.

      And when it comes to sharing faith, I like to think of conversations like that one as opportunities for friends to talk about what’s important to them. If friends can’t do that. there’s something wrong, right?

  5. Lea says:

    “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7.)”

    I feel like you should mail this to all the pastors who brag about ‘how many people they brought to Christ’ as if it excuses them of anything they do in life.

    • Tim says:

      Long ago, before I was a Christian, I heard a pastor talk about how he wanted to stand before Jesus in heaven and say, “Jesus, here are some people I want to introduce you to.” As if Jesus hadn’t known these people from eternity, and would have missed out on them if not for the pastor’s evangelism? Even in my pre-believer days I knew that sounded screwy.

  6. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    I like your post, Tim, and the comments it’s generated thus far. Trying to control or force some particular outcome or response in these cases usually isn’t helpful. So much pressure! When we approach it as 2 people talking about what’s important to them, and leave the “results” to God, I think it’s a lot better for everyone.

  7. Julie Frady says:

    Tim, I love your articles! It took me forever to realize that just having a conversation like that is evangelism. Because of the denomination I grew up in, I had gotten the idea that “evangelism” meant getting people to “get saved” by “praying the prayer.” You had only successfully evangelized if you could say you had “led someone to the Lord.” That is SO not true! People who don’t know Christ have all sorts of obstacles between them and Jesus. We don’t know how many they have, they may not even know how many they have, but God does. We have “successfully evangelized” if we have helped them to remove even one obstacle, even if they still have 25 to go before they’d be ready “to accept Christ.” And because we may not even know whether what we have said or done has helped to remove an obstacle, we may never know how many times we have “successfully evangelized” in this life.

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