The Cowboy Next to Me in Church

He’s unpretentious. He knows that God is God, and he is not.

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Cowboy boots. Photo by Jerry Hetrick, Thinkstock.

The worship chorus ends, and we take our seats. Lonny and I are like bookends. He’s on one end of our row of chairs. I’m on the other. Our brood of boys is between.

I’m sitting next to Isaiah.

The pastor welcomes us, and there’s shuffling and sound when he shares the Scripture we’ll be reading on this day. I reach under my chair for my Bible, and when I do, I notice Isaiah’s feet.

Cowboy boots.

His Sunday best.

I sit upright and place my Bible on my lap, but I’m drawn to the boots. They were the desire of Isaiah’s heart last fall–along with a fringy, Old West vest. We didn’t buy the vest, but I’d splurged and bought him a nice pair of brown leather boots. I knew they’d be worn until the soles went thin. They needed to be solid boots made for walkin’.

And now we have a little cowboy.

The grandfathers delight in this. They grin when Isaiah comes, clackity-clack, to visit their homes. The boots remind them of listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio and the long-ago days of Zane Grey books.

I find joy in the boots, too, but for a different reason.

Something about this simplicity–this pared-back boyhood, pure and true and sweet, reminds me of how I want to come before the Lord.

In the spirit of a child. With a child-like faith.

The cowboy beside me is confident in God’s love for him. He doesn’t grapple with grace. He knows that God loves him enough to have sent Jesus. And Jesus paved and provided the cowboy’s way to heaven.

The cowboy beside me is bent for prayer. When tough times come, prayer flows free. He doesn’t think about where he is. Who is watching. If someone is in need, the cowboy dips his head, clasps his hands and talks to the Lord.

The cowboy beside me resides in gentle humility. He doesn’t jockey for first place. He doesn’t think of himself more highly than others. He doesn’t struggle with idolatry or placing himself pretty on a throne. He’s unpretentious. He knows that God is God, and he is not.

The cowboy beside me is steadfast in faith. He doesn’t weigh God’s power against the strength of the struggle. He knows, at his tender age, that His God is mighty. He carved and created. He earth is His and He is Lord.

Pastor begins to read from God’s Word, and I find the passage. In a moment I’ll slide over and share my Bible with Isaiah. He can follow and read along, too.

But before I do, I take one last peek.

Isaiah is looking straight ahead. Too-long blond locks fringe his ears. And something about his profile, still small-boy soft, warms me.  

Isaiah’s hands rest easy on his lap and there’s a scrape along the curve of his thumb from a tussle with his pup. His feet, dangling, not quite touching the floor, swing back-and-forth in quiet rhythm.

And he turns his head and sees me watching. A smile, deep-hearted and easy, reflecting the beauty of his spirit, breaks wide.

There’s a little cowboy in the chair beside me.

And I want to be like him.

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