“Honey, that old gate is getting really bad.  Do you think we could get it fixed soon?”  The Lovely Lady’s voice had taken on an exasperated tone, so I knew better than to ask my stock questions in response.  “We?  Do you have a mouse in your pocket?”  No, this one required a response with a tiny bit more tact, so I replied, “It’s a nice afternoon.  I think I’ll take a stab at it today.”

The big gate sits between the front sidewalk of the music store and our backyard, so it gets a good bit of traffic.  I was sure ten years ago when it was installed that it would be trouble.  The sidewalk is really too wide for a single gate, but in the interest of aesthetics, one was built to span the entire width.  Now, after a decade of weather, falling trees, and ice storms…to say nothing of the people who wander through at odd intervals, the wood structure is tired.  However, it is much too important a point of ingress and egress to let fall into disuse (it is the entry for all of our back door friends), so I attempted a repair to extend the life of the swinging fence closure.  I must have been at least partially successful, because tonight, the Lovely Lady came in after covering the flowers to keep off the frost which is promised and told me that the gate was working much better, to which I replied, “Now, aren’t you glad we fixed it today?”  I find I’m much braver after taking care of responsibilities than before.

For some reason, it was a day for gates.  Well, actually…a day for gateways.  I worked for awhile this afternoon on a different type of gateway.  We have an e-commerce website, through which our customers may purchase products online using credit and debit cards.  To do this, our card processor requires us to maintain a relationship with a company called a “gateway”.  You see, we sell products.  That’s one side of the fence.  The card processor accepts the payment for the products.  That’s the other side of the fence.  But, to get from one side to the other, a gateway is required.  In this example, the gateway is another company that is the “middle-man” between our web store and the credit card processor, facilitating movement of the payment from the shopping cart on our site to the processor, who then deposits the money in our checking account (minus, of course, a little chunk from each transaction).  The gateway is a mutually necessary intermediary, set there to control the flow of information and money.  We can’t get along without it.  As I dealt with some mandatory changes to our gateway system this afternoon, I couldn’t avoid the realization that, here I was, mending gates again.

And, as normal, I also can’t help but harken back (that’s still a good phrase, isn’t it?) to my childhood days.  Frequently, we would help Mr. Cox move his cattle from one of his fields to another, trailing the thirty or forty bovine creatures out of one gate and down a country road, bordered on one side by an irrigation canal and on the other with wild brushland.  Cactus and mesquite trees made up most of the brush.  We only had to keep watch on the brush side of the road, since there was no chance the cows would be crossing the canal on the opposite side.  About two, maybe three miles away, there was another field surrounded by barbed wire (“bob wire”, we called it).  It had a gate, through which all the stubborn creatures had to be shoe-horned, so they could then spread out onto the better grazing awaiting them there.  The gate…Ah, there was a problem.  I remember on one of these semi-annual treks, that I was to open the gate before the impatient herders and their charges reached it.  It didn’t happen.

You have to understand “bob wire” fences.  They are cheap and effective, but the same men who save money by putting up the barbed wire can’t stand to waste money on an expensive gate.  The result of this thrift is a gate made of three strands of barbed wire with a gnarled post on one end that isn’t really attached to anything else.  It is held in place (and therefore, the strands of barbed wire are suspended where they need to be) by sitting in a loop of wire just above the ground and with another loop at the top, which must be lifted over the post.  After that loop is lifted, the gate may be dragged out of the way, opening the lane for the cattle, or tractor, or pickup truck to go through.  Sounds easy, right?  Lift a loop of wire.  What you have to remember is that the three strands of barbed wire are stretched tight, creating a pretty hefty amount of pressure of the post against the loop.  Lifting the loop entails putting even greater pressure on that wire gate to overcome the tension on the loop, allowing it to slide up and over the post.  Imagine my chagrin, as I struggled with the “putting greater pressure” part of that equation, to watch the cattle and herders pile up around the gate, awaiting my success, which never arrived.  I strove mightily, but made no headway.  My humiliation was complete as old Mr. Cox, in his sixties by then, came beside me and said, “You’ve got to put a little more oomph into it, Boy,” and squeezed gently, removing the loop easily.

In spite of that experience, I still like gates.  They lead from one limited area into new, uncharted territory.  While they control who and what is allowed to pass through, they do not deny entry.  If one is supposed to pass through, they grant access.  The lack of a gate, properly situated, causes problems; long treks around instead of through, clambering over fences never intended to be climbed.  Without them, access is denied and frustration levels increase.  When suitably placed and opened in a timely manner, tensions are eased and new vistas open up before us.

I enjoyed the word picture drawn by a college student the other day, as he was interviewing me for a class project.  “You don’t sell music…” he opined,  “…as much as just give people a way to get into music.”  I like that!  I like being a gateway to a world that might otherwise be closed.  I hope it doesn’t end with music, though.  As much as I love that thought, there is much more we are meant to do.  All of us have the potential to be gateways.  Gateways to all kinds of good things, as well as bad.  We can lead folks to emotional pain, sadness, and hurt.  Infinitely better than that though, is the possibility that we can lead them to joy, and love, and unity. 

I remember reading John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” as a child.  How distinctly I recall the image of the Wicket Gate, where Christian enters the King’s Highway.  As he approaches, he is attacked by someone hidden and shooting flaming darts at him.  Not only does the gate open immediately as it should, but a hand is extended and he is quickly pulled inside, out of the fray and danger and onto the path that leads him to his glorious goal.  What a great picture of Grace!

I like gates.  The kind that function as they should.  The one I repaired today will fail again.  Maybe the next time, I’ll remind the Lovely Lady of that “bob wire” gate and see if she can just count her blessings.  Then again…maybe not.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead to anywhere.”
(Frank A Clark~Syndicated newspaper columnist~1911-1991)

“Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.  But, small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”
(Matthew 7:13,14 NIV)

4 thoughts on “Gateways

  1. Isn’t it interesting that one of the things I remember most about Mr. Cox was his hands. It seemed all his character was displayed right there in his hands. Strong leathery hands that had worked hard all his life doing honest work and when extended in friendship were so warm. He truly was one of those childhood characters you never forget. Thanks for the memories Paul.

  2. Aaron, you got me to thinking about how influential he really was in our lives, even though it was mostly in the early years. Great to remember a man of excellent character who was truly genuine in his words and deeds.

  3. Funny. Your story about the barbed wire gate brought back memories of my childhood on the farm. How you could struggle with those things. And barbed wire leaves some pretty nasty little scars. It was not until after all of us kids left home that by dad starting installing those fancy metal gates that can be opened with one hand.

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