It is incredible how many parallels can be seen between horses and humans even within a short time of working on the ranch. As someone who loves seeing spiritual analogies in natural things, I spent some time recently thinking and journaling about one of our horses, Reva.
Reva is a beautiful dark bay Thouroughbred with a quiet disposition. She tends to be a loner in the herd and rarely causes trouble. I find myself relating to Reva because I have been the loner for much of my life, the one who hangs back in a group of people and quietly watches them have fun. I've also been somewhat of a loner in my walk with the Lord. More recently, God has been showing me how much I need other believers to walk alongside me and help me to stay hard after Him. We are relational beings and were not made to go it alone. Too often fear and pride stand in the way of receiving God's blessings through the help and support of others in His family. I have seen this in my own life. I think fear is basically the lack of trust in God's love. As you watch a horse with their trainer, it helps you to understand a little bit more what God is wanting to do with us.
Reva has one major issue. She has a fear of being tied. We don't know what happened, but sometime in her history before she came to us, she must have experienced abuse or something traumatic having to do with fenceposts and being tied to one. Our trainer has worked with her quite a bit to overcome this fear, but we have to stay on guard because she could revert and freak out at any time. When Reva is overcome by this fear, she tries to bolt and pulls back violently on her lead rope. It takes a lot of patient and gentle handling to convince her that nothing is going to hurt her and it is okay to stand tied. When the trainer works with Reva, it is his goal to take the fear out of her. This applies to any horse in a variety of situations. Horses are prey animals and their greatest defense is flight. When a horse decides something is a threat, the natural instinct is to get away. It takes time and patience to build a solid relationship with your horse where they can respect your leadership and trust you not to hurt them, even when you introduce strange and scary objects.
As I contemplated Reva's fear and watched the Willie, our trainer, work with her, God started applying it to my own life. As we read in Romans 7:22&23, in my spirit I desire to submit all of me to God and to have a beautiful relationship of trust with Him. But my flesh keeps fighting in that pride and fear. In order for the horse to learn submission to the trainer, he must work on bending her whole body, bringing her head, her attention, toward him and causing her to disengage in her hindquarters, where she might kick, and to step over. He teaches her using pressure; first he drives her away to run around the edge of the round pen, and then releases the pressure, allowing her to stop and rest. Ultimately he wants her to come in to him in the middle and to lower her head. This is an extremely vulnerable position for the horse to put itself in. She cannot see much at all, she cannot hear as well behind her, and she cannot run away. It takes away all her defenses. God is working with us to take down our defenses and asking us to trust Him implicitly. He wants us to be responsive to His slightest touch and respond instantly to His voice. With the horse, less is more. You want them to respond to light touch and voice commands, rather than needing to be pushed and prodded around. God wants to be able to bend us to His will and have us "step over" where He is directing us into a new opportunity. He wants us to learn to give to the pressure of His Word and the Holy Spirit to adjust our lives to Him. He wants us to be always learning, always growing, and always responding to Him.
As my thoughts continued, God brought this Scripture to my attention. "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. the Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and even for evermore." Psalm 121:7&8
What is the evil I need to be kept from? It could be something completely different for you. For me, there are things in my life that I view as bad and I allow fear to hold me back. For instance, I have a quiet personality. I have always seen this as a bad thing, especially when I'm around a lot of loud people. I always felt so different from my peers, and this causes me to pull back into myself even more when everyone around me is having a high time and I don't have anything to add to it. I feel lonely and insignificant and my usual response is to compare myself and see everything that person has that I lack. This leads to jealousy. I think that my lack is bad, that loneliness is bad, that not getting the approval of people I admire is bad. If I can't see the whole picture in a situation or don't know what to expect or what someone expects of me, I see that as bad. When I have a need and can't depend on myself to fill it, that is "bad". What God showed me is that all of these things have a purpose in my life. He has promised to preserve my life from anything truly evil. Some of these fears are just as irrational as Reva's fear of the fence post. Some of them are rooted in pain that I might not even realize is there until I take a deeper look. But my Father has a plan to use each obstacle and struggle in my life to make me more like Jesus. I have a choice every day to either listen and yield myself to Him, or to listen to the fears and lies in my mind. God wants to teach me that there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. (from 1 John 4:18) When I trust myself to the perfect love of my Master, Jesus, I can find the power to be open and honest with people and to let His love touch others through me. Horses and people: we all can find the freedom to love when we understand how much we are loved by the one who bought us.