— By JOHN PAUL CARTER
One man’s trash, they say, is another’s treasure. When Carole gets in a “cleaning out and throwing away” mood, she sometimes mistakes my treasures for trash. One of my trashy treasures that has escaped her purges hangs on a hat rack in our Texas room – a small bundle of rusty baling wire.
It takes two 8-foot strands of strong, pliable wire to hold a bale of hay together. After the wire is cut and the hay fed to the livestock, the wires are usually bent into a slim, foot-long bundle and tossed into the bed of the truck or a barrel for disposal. But ranchers keep some of the wire handy for emergencies.
When something needs to be temporarily held together, baling wire is a fellow’s best friend. It will do to mend a fence, tie up a dragging muffler, double-lock a gate, fix a broken float in a water trough and a thousand other things. No shop, car or pickup should be without it!
If you break down on the road or in the middle of the pasture, you may be able get things going again if you have some baling wire. While it won’t take you all the way to California, it just might get you home or to the repair shop.
Years ago in my counseling office, I hung a piece of rusty baling wire on the wall as a symbol of grace and hope. There are times when life breaks down in the middle of nowhere and we need something – anything – to hold things together until we can get some help.
Sometimes the baling wire that keeps us going seems pretty weak. We may find ourselves being motivated by fear, guilt, exhaustion or ignorance – rather than justice, love, and commitment. But if that’s all we have to work with, doing the right thing for the wrong reason may not be so bad.
Couples in a failing marriage often feel compelled to stay together for the sake of the children, to avoid economic disaster, or because they don’t want to upset their families. While such reasons may not offer much hope for the long haul, sometimes such baling wire holds two people together just long enough for them to find a way to overhaul their relationship.
There are times when it’s not wise to argue with a person’s reason for going on with life – especially if, at that time, they have nothing to put in its place. Better to use their rationale, weak as it may seem, to get them to a safer place where they can find better alternatives.
Baling wire is never the final answer. But it is the grace that offers us a chance to find real healing – to get to a place we can lay aside the temporary for more lasting solutions.
The prophet Isaiah wrote in the Servant Poems (42:3): “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.”
He was saying that when we are almost broken in half and our light is about to go out, God will not give up on us.
The Lord always has a bundle of baling wire in the back of his pickup. In the middle of nowhere, we are offered the grace of the temporary. God’s hope is that we will bring our brokenness to Him so that He can help us put our lives back together again.
John Paul Carter’s “Notes From the Journey” is a regular feature of Viewpoints.