Last week I had an experience with Tebow that taught me about myself. Most days here at the ranch, I go out and work with one or two of the horses. This keeps them from getting too spoiled in their winter vacation and cultivates my relationship with each of them. I try to get each horse out at least once a week for some time with me. I like to do something a little different each time, just to keep them interested. It's also great practice for me. It takes time and creativity to learn what works best with each horse and what my personal training style is. I usually spend time grooming whoever I've chosen to work with, and then we might go in the round pen for some exercises, or I'll work on desensitizing them with a particular object, or we'll just go for a walk. Sometimes I also want to ride, to practice my balance, feel, and communication with the horse.
So back to Tebow. On this day I had chosen to get him out for some bonding time. Tebow is our oldest horse, but we've only had him since last summer. He's a generally unruffled "old hand" horse. He's been around the block and is great to use with kids. Sometimes he needs motivation to get moving, but he's got plenty of "go" left in him when he decides to use it! Now, when you go out to catch a horse, there are two kinds of horses: the ones who let you come to them with a halter in your hand, and the ones who see the halter as their signal to leave. Tebow has fallen in with the second group. He doesn't usually work very long or hard to evade capture, so I was surprised by his persistence in the game of keep-away on this occasion. Perhaps he thought that he was going to be ridden again, since he had been ridden in most of the recent times that he was taken out. Horses are smart enough to realize when they are being ridden every time they submit to being caught, and this causes some to be reluctant to go. I had no intentions of riding him this time, but Tebow didn't know that. I expected him to move away from me initially, but when he continued to evade me, I realized that he was in a particularly stubborn mood! Here's where it got sort of funny; Tebow was eating hay from the large round bale feeder when I approached him in the corral. I was obviously interrupting his snack, but rather than move off from the feeder and put greater distance between us, he simply began to move around the feeder, going in circles. Now the way you want to approach a horse to catch him is to move in on his side, coming up to his shoulder. A horse with his backside turned to you is ignoring you, can't see you very well, and if you follow too close behind, you could get hurt if he decides to kick. Since Tebow was moving around the feeder, keeping close to its sides, I couldn't very well approach him on his side unless I turned in the other direction and went around to meet him. So I ended up chasing him around in circles from behind! Every time I turned and went to meet him in the other direction, he turned around and began circling the other way. I knew that once you begin to pursue a horse, you can't give up and let them have their way, so I was going to keep after him as long as it took, but I was getting dizzy! When a horse runs from me, I try to drive them to keep going by twirling my rope and stepping toward their shoulder, the way I would lunge them around me in the round pen. I want him to run even more, instead of just going out of reach and then trying to rest. Once he figures out that he is being pushed to work even harder, he will decide he doesn't want to play this game, and when I stop and tell him whoa, he will usually stop running and either let me walk up to him or come in to me. But I had a hard time getting Tebow to leave the circle he was traveling and run out in the open space where he would have to work harder. I finally got him to go out there, and I pursued him to drive him on, but every time I tried to encourage him to stop, he kept going and ended up right back at that hay feeder, trying to snatch another mouthful, and back we'd go to circling. This went on and on for quite a bit longer than it usually takes to catch any of our horses. I continued to pursue Tebow calmly and with resolve, but I couldn't help thinking how silly he was being, and wishing that he could just understand that I wasn't even going to ask a lot of him today, and he was making so much futile work for himself.
And then my Lord began to make me realize that I was doing the exact same thing! There was something He had been prompting me to do that involved reaching outside my comfort zone to bless some other people, and I had been fighting Him about it for weeks. It was not anything complicated or big or especially threatening, but it was just unnatural enough for me that I allowed fear, pride, and personal comfort to hold sway, and I was resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit. I kept questioning whether I had really heard Him, or was it just a random idea? Then I would try to reason it away. Have you ever done this? I was in danger of quenching the Holy Spirit and holding myself back from greater growth. Every time I worked with the horses, God would show me, in a little bit different way, how I was refusing to trust Him, to submit, and to listen. On this day with Tebow, I saw that I, too, was running in useless circles, causing myself all kinds of spiritual, mental, and emotional stress. I kept trying to get away from the pressure of God's gentle conviction, but just as I was not going to quit pursuing Tebow, God was not going to quit pursuing me until I chose to submit. It was pressure from which I couldn't find relief, unless I would stop running, go to my Master, and submit to Him leading me where He wanted me to go. That is what Tebow finally chose to do. When he decided to come with me, he found rest. He found that he could relax while I groomed him. He found a short and easy walk. He found that I wasn't pressuring him to do much of anything. And when I was finished with my purposes, He found release back into the corral with the herd, where he could go back to his hay and enjoy an uninterrupted snack. What a picture for me! It is true that I asked Tebow to submit to wearing the halter, being led wherever I wanted to go, and stand patiently in one place. These are things he may not enjoy, and they certainly weren't his idea, but it was a lot easier than running in circles for twenty minutes! It is also true that at other times I will ask him to do harder work, like round pen exercises or carrying me on his back. But this is purposeful work, something that results in a stronger relationship with me or teaches him something to make him more successful as a riding horse. Running and resisting is vain work for him. He can run till he wears himself out, and I will still ask him to submit to me. But how often I have done this with God! In trying to escape the work He has asked me to do, I wear myself out and become miserable. And when I finally submit and allow Him to direct my actions, I find such relief and peace, and I wonder why I ever waited so long to obey!
Tebow showed me how silly I was being to run from God. In the next few days, I chose to lay down my will about what God was telling me to do, and I obeyed. Although the thing He asked of me was nothing spectacular, and I may never know His purpose for it, I found that sweet release and rest in my heart when I had done it. I also found that the pressure I expected to feel while carrying out this mission was much less in reality. Once I purposed in my heart to obey God, and I stepped out in faith to do it, He gave me what I needed through the promises of His Word, and it was not half as scary as I imagined it to be. Jesus even talked about this. Matthew 11:29-30 says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." We think of a yoke as something heavy and burdensome, requiring great strength to bear. Picture two great oxen yoked together, pulling some heavy piece of equipment. But Jesus is saying that if we will bear His yoke, following His will, we will find it to be light and easy, because He will be our strength. He will be yoked with us, and everything we are not, He is! We are total weakness, but Jesus is total strength! I don't think He's saying that it will always be easy to live by faith and to submit to Him, but that when we do, we will find all that we need to carry on. And only with Him can we find rest, because anything we do on our own is empty, useless striving. It has no purpose and no reward. In contrast, whatever we do in the life and power of Jesus has eternal purpose and overwhelming rewards in glory!
I can tell you that this is not the first time I have run circles from God's prompting, and it won't be the last. But if I can be patient and calm enough to keep after Tebow until he stops running, God is infinitely more patient, kind, and merciful with me and you. I am so grateful for the way He is using these horses, wonderful creations of His, to teach me such profound truths, and these truths are taking deeper root in my life each time I put them into practice. If you are struggling today against something your Master is asking you to do, I hope that Tebow can also encourage you to stop the pointless game and submit to the only One who is your Rest.