Peyton, our two year old gelding, is a gentle and sweet horse. You can do pretty much anything to him and he doesn't care. He will let me hop on his back and sit or lay on him while he eats in his stall. Over the summer, one of the ranch staff taught Peyton to put his head down so she could slide down his neck to the ground. Being laid back is a good quality for a kids' horse. But sometimes I think Peyton is too laid back. Either that or he just doesn't understand what we are asking of him. He needs a lot more work before he will be ready to be independently ridden. It's not that he isn't gentle enough. He just doesn't move forward well when being worked or ridden. Forward motion is an important part of any horse's training. If the horse won't go, you can't teach them much. I find myself puzzled and often impatient with Peyton's reticence to move when I am working with him. Even something as simple as leading him around the ranch becomes frustrating. Playing tug of war does not get very far with a horse, but that is what I've basically ended up doing with Peyton at times. I am trying to understand what the issue is. I know he doesn't like to leave the herd and is very distracted by "worrying" after them when he is separated. He's also still a baby. He is curious and easily distracted by whatever catches his attention around him. He wants to stop and sniff, chew, explore. When walking in the grass, he will constantly stop and try to eat. It may be that Peyton is a slow learner. What works well with a lot of the other horses may not get through to him. It's going to take creativity to understand him and help him understand and choose to do what we ask. Sometimes I also wonder if he is afraid. He generally seems relaxed, but is the consistent freezing up a sign of fear, perhaps along with confusion? I don't know the answers at this point. Peyton and I both have a lot to learn. But he has made me think about some things in my life and how I've acted very much like him.
In the last several months, God has put a dream on my heart to pursue therapeutic riding more in-depth. I want to learn to effectively use horses to help differently-abled people. I was excited about beginning study and training towards this goal. But, as often happens when I move towards a new challenge, I got scared. I began to second guess myself, wondering if I'm really ready for this, if I have enough experience to start the training now. I was afraid to commit myself to a process that involves deadlines and specific requirements for success. Afraid that I would not be able to finish what I started. And so I put it off. I froze. And God convicted me that this is a common theme in my life. I allow fear to freeze me in a lot of different areas. For one thing, I struggle with perfectionism. It is so important to me to get things right all the time. I hate messing up, disappointing people, or looking stupid. Oftentimes, my perfectionism is manifested in not even trying something out of the fear that these things will happen. Or I will spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing a step I'm going to take or a conversation I need to have before I ever act on it, trying to make sure I'm doing or saying things just right to avoid failure. What it really comes down to is pride and a desire for control. The pride comes in trying to ensure that people will always think highly of me, as long as I don't trip up or fumble or upset someone. There's an unwillingness to humble myself and let people see my weakness. And I try to hold onto control by keeping things moderately safe. I do not easily or often step into anything where I think I might not be able to handle it with my own ability or confidence, where I feel I'm going in over my head. This pride and control points to a lack of trust in God. He showed me that my unwillingness to step forward until I feel ready is sinful, because I'm trusting my very limited ability to control and choosing to not trust Him. This goes for the small things in life as well as the big ones. When I think of the way Peyton constantly freezes up when I'm simply trying to walk him forward, and the great effort in coaxing and tugging required to move him, I realize what I'm doing to God. Peyton doesn't understand that everything I'm doing with him is for his good. I want him to learn. I want him to be successful in his life on the ranch. I want him to be the best horse he can be. And sometimes I'm not even asking much of him, just to walk along with me. This is a very low pressure situation. But he makes it a big deal. God has promised to always be with me, that His plans for me are good, that He wants to make me like His son and bring me into ever deeper fellowship with Himself. This is the absolute best thing for me; it's what I was made for! And yet, simply because I can't see where we're going, or I don't know the outcome of a situation, or I just want to stay where I feel safe and comfortable, I freeze up, just like Peyton. I make even little steps into major fights. Thank God for His incredible patience and mercy towards me! He doesn't stop in frustration, and He never has to take a breather to step away and reevaluate the situation. He's always there, always loving, always ready to lead and reward the smallest step of faith. And He is not willing to let me stay the way I am. Because he knows it's only hurting me. It's keeping me from being who He made me to be, the very best me I can be!
I've decided to trust my Father for this next step and to keep practicing walking out in faith without freezing. I'm not responsible for successful results or perfection. My life and the outcomes of my faith are in God's hands. I pray this can be an encouragement to someone else who needs to let go of control and live by faith.