So I have a confession to make. I’m a country girl. I love country music, NASCAR and life in a small town. I grew up on a small poultry farm in rural Virginia. We had our own cow that my daddy milked by hand every day. We drank that milk without any processing other than straining it through a cheese cloth into a jar. We made homemade ice cream, ate fresh eggs from the chickens on the farm, raised pigs, processed our own beef, pork and chicken. We made homemade apple butter, canned vegetables from our garden and often times wore homemade clothes. We washed those homemade clothes and hung them outside on a line to dry. Have you ever tried to put on a freshly washed pair of blue jeans that have hung outside on a clothes line in the sun all day? It’s no easy task. We had chores and responsibilities every day and we did them without complaint (well not much complaint). I used to think that I couldn’t wait to get out of that small town, and at the age of 22, I married my Carolina boy and moved away. That was over 21 years ago. Over the past 21 years my husband and I have moved around due to his job and most of the time we have lived in small communities.
On my way to a youth function at my church the other day I popped in the new Jason Aldean CD my son gave me for Christmas. While I had listened to this CD several times since Christmas, I had not really listened to this particular song until that moment. After listening to it once, I replayed it two more times. The message, while some might consider quite “hokey”, hit me like a ton of bricks, but none the less, it hit me hard.
The title of this song is “Church Pew or Bar Stool”…yes, it’s quite country, and to some, I am sure it’s hard to believe that one could find a deep thoughtful meaning out of it, but let me explain my “aha” moment. The singer explains that there are two kinds of salvation in this small town he’s living in; the whiskey or the Bible, meaning you have to be one way or the other. He sings in the chorus that “when you don’t seem to live on either side of the fence people act like you don’t make sense”. As I reflected on this song and the meaning behind it, I realized that all too often in life we are judged by what we do, who we spend time with, where we live, what kind of car we drive, etc. But why? What does it really matter what religion I am, what kind of music I listen to, what kind of car I drive or whether I spend my time at a NASCAR race or in a museum or at the opera or in church? No one particular thing makes me who I am. What makes me the person I am is all of these things collectively.
I teach Christian preschool, but does that mean that I can’t listen to my country music? Does that mean that I can’t go to a NASCAR race, tailgate with my husband, family and friends and cheer on my favorite driver? Does it mean that I can’t frequent certain restaurants, or be friends with people with different backgrounds or beliefs? No, absolutely not. What it means is that I am who I am and that is enough. Sometimes when I get in my car to go to work or leave work for the day I crank up my radio and let the music fill up every inch of space in my brain. It’s funny to see the looks on my co-workers faces as I zip off the lot with my music vibrating the windows. Some find it quite humorous that Ms. Karla listens to that “stuff”. It’s just a part of me.
In the song the singer sings about not living on either side of the fence. What are fences for? Fences are built for two reasons; to keep something in or keep something out. They are a divider, of sort. There are so many things in today’s world that divide or separate and instill in us the need to be set apart. What we need to keep in mind is that when fences are built we lose intimate, personal contact with those around us. We set ourselves apart, and by doing so, we may miss out on something or someone wonderful. As a little girl growing up in the country, we had fences for the animals, but not for ourselves. We never locked our cars, we left our bikes out on the front porch, we slept with the windows open and if we forgot to lock the house when we left, well that was o.k. too. We trusted and were trusted. If we needed something we borrowed it from a neighbor. We knew our neighbors and they knew us. Life was simple. While I don’t advocate leaving our cars and homes unlocked, I would suggest trying to tear down some of the fences we’ve built in our lives. Maybe that’s why I have such an affection for country music. It’s real, it’s simple; sometimes it’s loud and other times it soft and melodic, but for me, it reaches into my heart and reminds me that it’s o.k. to be who I am. It reminds me to open up, reach out, help out, hold a hand, say a prayer or just sit and listen.
I remember a quote that quite possibly came from a country song that says “you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”. And, while I do enjoy some of the finer things life has to offer, I have to admit that some of the things in life that bring me the most joy are things that are simple; country , if you will. My challenge for this week is to tear down a fence that you’ve built in your life. Reach out, open up and listen with your heart, it’s really that simple. You’d be amazed at just how sweet the simple “country” side of life is.