My husband was born 150 years too late. Premortally, I must have convinced him to wait with me in exchange for an unopposed destiny of raising our family in rural Montana.
The other night as the sun slowly faded, he changed out of his starched dress shirt and into cowboy work clothes to take down some rustic fencing that used to serve a valuable purpose.
I left dishes in the sink and offered to help. He didn’t turn me down but was certain the kids would need me for something — his nice way of saying the job wasn’t going to be fun or easy.
I changed clothes, found mismatched men’s work gloves and walked with the dog to where he was working. As he detached metal fencing from thick, rotting posts, he said I could wrap the barbed wire that had topped the fence line. In weeds up to my knees I saw where the barbed wire began but had no idea where it ended.
I picked up the end and carefully made a loop about 12 inches in diameter. Luckily my husband’s back was turned as the barbs sprung out of my hands multiple times — catching the floppy ends of my oversized gloves, scraping my pants and sending the dog running for cover.
After several attempts, I could feel the heavenly frowns from my farming ancestors who were shaking their heads at the ineptness of their posterity.
Humbly but casually, I finally hollered ahead and asked if there was a secret to wrapping rusty barbs. His suggestion doubled the size of my project and gave me more stability to wrap and secure that first circle. With a solid foundation, the job became much more likely to succeed.
At one point, I was concentrating so heavily on the movements of my right hand that I didn’t notice my loose, left glove was entirely tangled in several layers of barbs. After removing my hand and resecuring the layers, the barbs began to be a help rather than a hindrance as they caught the new layer of wire and kept it secure.
Then, along came an old ceramic insulator that had long lost its purpose on the fence but suddenly became valuable to me as a bulky binding to the slippery layers of wire. I also gained success by weaving the wire more like a serpentine than a straight stack. In places where the wire had been patched, the thickness of the layer added a surprising amount of strength and gave me loose wire ends to secure the ones that strayed.
Although I still didn’t know how much longer my task would last, my confidence was increasing and the crisp evening air cleared my head and got me thinking.
If this life is like a long wire that disappears into the distance and each barb is like a personal weakness, I could see how those weaknesses could be turned into strengths as we build our experiences on a strong foundation.
Sure, life can unravel when we least expect it, but it doesn’t mean we should give up. Guidance is never far away if we’re humble enough to ask. Security can come along the way from many sources, like the ceramic insulators, that might have looked more like an obstacle than a helpful tool until they were wrapped together. Patched lines, like a repentant life, can also provide great strength to our character and ability to fulfill our destiny as well as help others in need.
By then, I’m sure Grandpa Lloyd was finally smiling from heaven because like him, I found symbolism in the mundane and analogies among agricultural pursuits.
By the time I reached the end of my line, my wreath of barbed wire was no longer a hazard in the field but a circular wonder and even a bit beautiful. I couldn’t help but think how I could add a little rope and some pheasant tails and hang it on a blank wall in our new house as a tribute to those who used to work this land.
For now, I set my wreath of barbs next to an ancient stack of wire that never quite got used for the purpose it was intended but stands as powerful symbolism of how snares can transform into strength through faithful experience.