A drunken cowboy lay sprawled across three entire seats in the posh Amarillo Theater. When the usher came by and noticed this, he whispered to the cowboy, “sorry sir, but you’re only allowed one seat.”
The cowboy groaned but didn’t budge.
The usher became more impatient. “Sir, if you don’t get up from there I’m going to have to call the manager.” Once again, the cowboy just groaned.
The usher marched briskly back up the aisle, and in a moment he returned with the manager. Together the two of them tried repeatedly to move the cowboy, but with no success.
Finally they summoned the police. The Texas Ranger surveyed the situation briefly then asked, “all right buddy what’s your name?”
“Fred,” the cowboy moaned.
“Where ya from, Fred?” asked the Ranger.
With terrible pain in his voice, and without moving a muscle, Fred replied, “the balcony…”
On occasion, we all end up in places we’d rather not be. I’m sure our poor cowboy didn’t want to be broken, battered, and splattered across several seats in the theater, but there he was. We don’t know how he got there, and maybe he didn’t either. He was probably sure of one thing, however. He needed help.
This reminds me of the old Jimmy Buffett song, The Great Filling Station Holdup, which has a chorus line that says, “I wish I was someplace other than here.” Both Jimmy Buffet and our cowboy put themselves in positions that eventually caused their demise. Every one of us has done that.
Jesus once told Peter that people were going to take him to a place where he didn’t want to go (John 21:18-19). This was just before his final invitation for Peter to follow him. The strong implication of that short interlude is that when we follow Christ, we’re going to end up in places we hadn’t planned on being. It seems to be part of the territory.
“I never promised you a rose garden” could have been Jesus’ theme. There are certainly promises in Scripture, but many of them have more to do with our spiritual lives than our physical ones. Indicating to Peter that he would be led off to die at some point doesn’t seem like a good way to attract a follower. Still, the tug toward discipleship is convincing—stronger than the fear of death itself.
A lot of us want to follow Jesus in this life, but we’d sooner do it at a distance. It’s easy to realize that, if we get too close, we might end up in a precarious position—one with which we may wish we’d never become acquainted. Playing it safe is far more comfortable.
Jesus didn’t call us to be comfortable, however. He called us to places like balconies—places that are high up or far off. Venturing into those places is less than comfortable. Unfortunately, they seem to be the places Jesus hangs out.
The plus side…? Jesus is right there to help us cowboys.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]