Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lessons From The Round Pen: Imprinting

I'm no expert on horses, but I'd like to share a series of things I'm learning about horse training and the spiritual parallels that can be drawn from them.

The first lesson I want to talk about is imprinting. This is one of the very first things that a good horseman will do with their horse after it's born. The sooner after birth this can happen, the better. Basically, imprinting is to create an early bond of trust and ownership with the horse. It teaches him to accept being handled by humans as a natural part of his world. The process of imprinting includes touching and rubbing the baby all over his body, both with your hands and other objects, such as a towel or blanket. It is best to start with the baby lying down, before it has gotten up for the first time. You would also handle the feet, play with his ears, stick your fingers in his nose and mouth. These are all imprinting on his brain that you are both dominant and safe. It also gives you a good start in desensitizing your horse to new objects and experiences, teaching him not to fear. As he grows, the young horse will naturally be much more comfortable with having his feet picked up for cleaning, trimming, and shoeing. He will more readily accept a bit in his mouth, as well as dental and medical check-ups. He will have a better trust and respect with his master, built on that early bonding experience.

I see a couple of good thoughts in this. First, for those who are parents, God commands you to "train up [your] child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6
Little children, like young horses, are greatly impressionable and have the potential to be majorly influenced in the right or the wrong direction for the rest of their life during their first years. In Deuteronomy chapter 6, God tells us to keep His words in our hearts and to teach them diligently to our children. Talk about them when you're at home, when you're out and about, when you go to bed and when you rise in the morning. Make His words priority in your home. The idea is to make teaching opportunities for your children out of every experience and routine in the day, even the mundane things. This consistent application of the truth of God to the attitudes, actions, and words of your children will imprint their hearts to walk the good paths in life. I believe even the youngest children and babies in the womb can be imprinted by hearing Scripture and songs about the Lord.

Secondly, maybe you are not a parent or don't have many children in your sphere of influence. Maybe you did not receive that early imprinting of the Word on your heart. It's not too late to start. Each of us, no matter how much or how little we were trained in the ways of the Lord, need to take responsibility to imprint the Truth on our own hearts. In James 1:21, it says, "therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." That word "implanted" is also translated "engrafted". It speaks of something that is placed deep within your heart and becomes a part of you, making you a different person. Sometimes a tree or plant can be grafted into another plant, to make a sick plant healthy or to mix the characteristics of the two and create a hybrid, sort of a new plant that is hardier or more disease resistant or yields better fruit. What happens when the words of God are implanted into our souls? Romans 12:2 tells us: "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Our human nature is to follow the world's way of thinking and try to control our own life. When you give your life to Christ, He sets out to change your thinking and your beliefs. This is a continual process that takes place as we read and think about God's Word and apply it to our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. Again, we have to make it a priority to be in the Word every day and ask God to help us obey Him. Over time, the wrong imprints in our hearts can be erased and stamped over with God's imprint. Then trusting God and following His ways will become our natural response to the new and strange situations of life.

Our Creator God is also a compassionate and tenderhearted Father. He wants the best for His children, and He will always be faithful to pursue us and draw us into closer relationship with Himself, just as the horse owner seeks to bring the baby horse into a relationship of trust and acceptance. There is really only a small window of time for a horse to properly imprinted. But with our Lord, every day is a new day and a fresh opportunity to receive His life-giving Words. Have you been with Him today?