That Old Rope

Walk into any old rancher’s house and it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a rope hanging on a wall somewhere. Ask them about it and you’ll hear a story along the lines of, “That’s the last lariat I used at ‘The Granddaddy’ up in Cheyenne, back in ’82. Made the short go, but lost to a youngster. He couldn’t rope no better’n me, but he was sure faster on his feet.” That’s not a version I could tell. My old rope has a different story; one I’d like to share with y’all today.

This old rope has been around for some time now. I remember going out to purchase all 36 feet of it after learning one of the best lessons on how to be a Christian that any man can learn. Wrapping colored tape on the first few inches, I prayed for God’s wisdom. I prayed that He would always help me to remember the importance of each piece of tape, and the much higher importance of the other 35’ 8” that isn’t taped. In one word, the lesson I learned was Focus.

I can’t take credit for the lesson, as I was blessed to receive it via Pastor Francis Chan (he was in CA at the time). I’m not sure if He was the originator of this lesson or not, but he sure made a powerful impact upon my Christian walk, and life, through it. Here’s how I interpreted his “Rope Lesson”.

At the end of this rope, just the first few inches, is some red tape. Imagine with me that this red tape represents the early and middle stages of your life. Starting out, you are nourished and cared for, growing and learning while protected. You focus on learning new things, becoming more independent as you develop skills, gain knowledge, and can do more. Pretty soon you’ve graduated and begin on your career path. As a young adult, you are more focused on getting the next job or promotion and making sure you don’t miss the next big party. During this life stage, you focus on amassing all the trappings and toys of adulthood that are supposed to make you happy.

As you reach middle age, you begin to realize that the harder you work, the more you want. The more you make, the more you spend. And for all that you’ve amassed, spouse, children, job recognition, title, etc., you’re less happy, more stressed, and less free to enjoy what should be the most truly important things in your life. At some point, as many watch their parents retire and adjust to living a more modest lifestyle, you recognize your need to start focusing on this smaller, yellow-taped section. This means less toys and more savings as you recognize your earning potential will one day come to an end.

This section represents your Golden years. No one tells you that the gold is paint, and it wears off really quickly. As you save for these retirement years, you dream of exotic vacations and umbrella drinks on the beach (non-alcoholic of course). You imagine your life as lazy days filled with reading books, leisure strolls with your loved one, and fun times with grandchildren. Oh, these things can be realized, but soon after retirement you start to realize you should have been saving much earlier and saved much more. Those sage investment counselors seldom tell you how the majority of your retirement income will go to the drug companies you are becoming more and more dependent upon. They don’t focus on the fact that often-times, medical providers become your most-visited destination.

During your Golden years, if you’re lucky, at least some part of your focus is on sharing the wisdom you’ve gained with those generations coming behind you. You slow down, not because you necessarily want to, but your body has begun wearing out (joints, balance, vision, hearing, on and on). Some lament all they didn’t get to do when they were younger, but the majority of us in this stage of life focus on making sure our affairs are in order as we can see the end coming. But is it?

Where is your focus? #EternityorEveryday #FocusOnEternity #EndGameThinking Share on X

What if I told you that the much longer, un-taped portion of that rope represented eternity? I pray eternity with God as your Lord and Savior. Clearly, as James 4:14 tells us, our eternal life is far more important than this temporal existence we think of as our life. Saint or sinner, saved or not, we all have eternity to look forward to. I think the most important decision we can ever make is where we choose to spend eternity. If you’re not sure, I and many of my friends here stand ready to help you choose life.

Now, back to that L-O-N-G section of rope called eternity. Have you considered that these other short time periods of your life are merely the interview, the probationary period, for your role in eternity? If you understand that what we do in this life will determine what role we’ll have in eternity, where would your focus be? Do we place our hope in getting that next big promotion at work or is our hope in God?

When I look at the old rope hanging directly across from my desk here at the Cross-Dubya, I think of the words of the Apostle Paul.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our
outward man is perishing, yet the inward man
is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction,
which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not
look at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NKJV)

I pray that in these words, you find the blessed hope in Christ that will sustain you in this life’s journey. I know that for me, the best is yet to come. I pray my primary focus is on that Day, when I am ushered into eternity with God. Hope I see you there my friend. Let me know if I can help you get there.

God’s blessings,


56 thoughts on “That Old Rope”

  1. This post held my attention completely from beginning to end, J. D. What an amazing way to visualize our journeys both in this life and the next! I know where my focus needs to be, and I need to spend time in valuable preparation for it in the here and now. Eternity is, indeed, forever, and I know where I want to be.

    1. Thank you Ms. Diane Virginia. Please know how my family is lifting you and yours up in prayer as you bravely face this trial ma’am. We’re on Team Diane and we’re storming the shores of heaven each day with our humble petition for God’s will and great comfort for you.

    1. Oh my! Thank you so very much for such kindness. Yes, I too pray that God can use this and so many other great lessons out there to reach our young people. Like you, I refuse to surrender generations to Satan! Not on my watch!

  2. I’ve seen a short clip of that message by Francis Chan. What a visual impact it made to see the few inches of red taped rope in his hand with the rest of the rope trailing across the stage and then past view. Those years that seem so long when we’re young seem so much shorter when we get older. And in eternity, they’ll seem like just a blip. How important it is to get ready now for eternity.

    1. They sure do Ms. Barbara. I was in my 50s when I saw this, and has just enrolled in the Executive Savings program at work that allowed me to defer a larger percentage of my salary into my pension plan and also allowed for an extra amount each year because I was over 50. Am sure glad for that now that I’m using those pension payments. 😀 LOL In that “Yellow Zone” of this life, I long more each day to cross that threshold into eternity. God’s blessings ma’am.

  3. What a visual of life you provided with the rope story, J. D. We need reminders of the brevity of life as compared to eternity. I pray God keeps the time frame fresh on my mind as I seek to serve Him. It’s easy to overemphasize the present.

    1. So true Ms. Jeannie. It makes quite an impact when I share this lesson with folks. Especially those of us who, as a friend says, “are in the fourth quarter of this life.” My wife Diane and I often chuckle when we think of what we call the “folly of youth.” We’re paying for those foolish choices now, but in moment while we were young we could never envision needing canes and walkers and the sort. We were certain we were invincible and never going to grow old.

  4. I love this post, J.D., which is never a surprising reaction when I read your stuff. But what did surprise me was that as I read it, I kept thinking about my visit to the optometrist the other day. It was not an unusual visit at all–just a regular exam. She positioned that lens apparatus in front of my face and projected some letters on the wall. She asked me to read them back to her and then she began to switch the lenses and ask each time if the image was clearer. Her objective, obviously, was to make the image as sharp and clear as she could possibly make it.
    As I read your fascinating piece about the rope, and thought about the eye exam, it hit me, God has things that He wants so much for us to see clearly, truths He wants us not to miss, principles about which He wants no guesswork or confusion. To help ensure that we see vital spiritual images clearly, He pops in different “lenses” to bring them into sharper focus, and that’s where you come in so often. First you grab a piece of God’s eternal truth that you know He wants us to see. Then you might decide to put a calf in front of our face, or maybe a common weed, or a broken fence–or even a simple rope. And soon God is saying to guys like me, “Can you see it more clearly now?” To which we often answer “Sharper and brighter than ever, Lord.”
    I don’t have a rope like the one in your office, Brother, but I ought to go buy one. In any case, I don’t think I’ll ever see any kind of rope again and not remember this week’s “lens.” It was stimulating and inspirational to think about my life like that rope and to contemplate the changes over time. It was also kind of fun to look around and see what kinds of responsibilities and opportunities that I might be able to lasso and get hog-tied today :).

    1. Oh, how you humble me my friend. Thank you for your encouraging words. As I endeavor to share the thoughts and messages God places on my heart, I trust you know that every word is measured against the high standard you and my other Christian writing friends set. While I am ever-grateful that many like or appreciate my words, I am ever-prayerful that my words create that sweet-smelling aroma unto God. He is the audience we should all strive to write for. God’s blessings to you and Ms. Diane sir, and prayers that you’re feeling better soon.

  5. Love this rope analogy, friend! These retirement years – yes, I certainly have a much different perspective than my younger years. Life would have been so much easier if I knew then what was important and what was not. God tried to tell me, didn’t He? 🙂 My relationship with Him…and my relationship with people. All the important things fall under those two categories. Thank you for sharing today!

    1. Amen! Life sure has a way of changing our perspective as we live more of it, doesn’t it ma’am? I’m still stunned by the recent announcement that you’re a memaw (grandmother for those who don’t speak Texan). You’re one of my young friends. 😀

  6. oh my friend, I feel the days flying by more and more quickly, especially these past few crazy years. I love this lesson and the illustration of the rope. it’s a wonderful reminder to focus on what really matters.

    1. I often see my life as a “spinning dime” Ms. Ann. Have you ever notice how when you spin one on its edge, as it nears the end, the spinning gets faster and faster, and then it begins losing it’s angular velocity spins very quickly just before it falls (changes its axis). I think the principle is learned by the toy, “Euler’s Disc”.

  7. Sad, but very true lol: “They don’t focus on the fact that often-times, medical providers become your most-visited destination.”

    We do all have an eternity. Either we’ll enjoy it or suffer forever. It’s good to focus on the need to prepare for our heavenly eternity while on this earth and consider, with great compassion, those who are not yet on Team Jesus.

    1. Amen Ms. Mary. There is no one that God does not offer eternity too at some point in their lives. The choice remains theirs to make. Oh, how I pray that many more of my loved ones will make that right choice. I think of a song that Mr. Alan Jackson sings, “I want to stroll over heaven with you.” God’s blessings ma’am.

  8. Love this post and the rope lesson. I sure didn’t know the golden years meant gold paint that wears off real quickly. 🙂 Yes, agree, the most important part of the long rope is eternity. And our God holds eternity in His hand. I pray your article, blog and messages help others find this truth. Thank you, J.D. You’re an inspiration!

    1. It absolutely is ma’am. In Pastor Chan’s message, I remember him quizically suggesting that “the world” thinks him silly for focusing on eternity rather than what’s the next worldly thing they’re working towards. Then, he turns and says, “No, you’re the silly ones. Look beyond what you eyes see to see what your heart longs for.”

  9. How I look forward to that final step from this world into eternity! But how quickly and easily my mind can be diverted from that beautiful promise to the temporal things of this world. You rightly said to hope in the Lord. We need to renew this hope with God’s new mercies every morning. Bless you, J.D., for sharing this great visual reminder!

    1. So very true Ms. Annie. I sometimes lament the years I lost to worldly thinking, but God is quick to remind me that the windshield is much larger than the rear-view mirror for a reason. I think I just found next week’s blog. LOL

    1. Amen Ms. Dottie. It’s so important to remember that in the same way we crossed a threshold in our lives from childhood to adolescence, then from adolescence to adulthood, we will one day cross the next into ETERNITY. I pray many are ready. I find myself longing for it more each day.

  10. I love visuals as a tool to learn and remember and this one is a beauty. I’ve read Francis Chan who is a master teacher. Thanks for sharing the strategy of using a rope to contrast eternity and the ‘here and now’. How appropriate for you is the rope.

  11. So true JD. Bill and I are in the yellow tape part of life and our focus has shifted to what is truly important. Thanks for the encouragement

  12. I once heard a lesson talking about how eternity is a line, like in math class. Life is a dot on the line. It’s stayed with me over the decades since. Thanks, JD, for bringing it back to mind. God bless!

  13. I had to stop and pray in the middle of your message, my friend. You definitely touched a nerve, a weak spot that only our loving Father can heal. I poured my anguish out to Him and, again, asked His help in making some changes I need to make in this final quarter (as Coach would say). Thank you for this nudge. Wishing you continued blessings, my friend, we’re not done yet! God is still sending lessons through you to the rest of us.

    1. Will be praying with you Ms. Katherine. If we’re each truly honest with ourselves, there are lots of things about ourselves that need to be changed. The key, I think, is that we ask and allow God to make the changes. Only speaking for myself here, I’m not strong enough to make them on my own. God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. Am trying my best to emulate you and your amazing ministry Ms. Melissa. I fear I can never keep up, but am reminded that God gives us each our own race, we’re not in competition. Our job is, as you do so well, to encourage others in their race. God’s blessings my faithful friend.

  14. So sorry I’m so late! I love this message, and I agree with the Scripture in 2 Corinthians: “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” May we focus on our heavenly eternity, which is our final destination after this earthly sojourn. I’m looking forward to seeing you there, brother JD! Have a blessed week. 🙂

  15. Years ago, I tried to start looking at life, stuff, events, decisions, etc. with an eternal perspective. As you emphasized, that is where our focus should be. However, it is rather impacting to realize that what we do now does have an impact on our eternity. That’s why I attempt to do all things to glorify our Lord. But alas, I often fail.

    1. How very true my friend, we must “lay up treasures” now. I call it my SRA (Spiritual Retirement Account). It will earn a much higher return on investmen than any IRA I could have. 🙂

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