The other day, I took Glory out for a ride. Now she tends to be a scaredy-cat about a lot of things, but she's been out on this trail plenty of times, and although she prefers to be with a group of other horses and it gives her courage, she does alright by herself. The weather was cooler and gorgeous, and I was looking forward to a relaxing little jaunt. Glory, however, was not convinced that this was in her best interest. I saddled her up at the same time that the feed was being put in the stalls, and she knew all her buddies were going into the barn for dinner, while I was taking her away from the barn. She was not happy. First she tried to play scared. She was shying at everything, refusing to go under a bridge that she's walked under dozens of times. So I had to make the wrong thing hard. I won't let her run away from everything that she thinks is scary or unpleasant. She would balk and start backing away, so I made her turn circles. We'd come back to face the bridge and I would urge her forward. She'd go a few steps and balk again. I knew it wouldn't be good for either of us to get too frustrated, so I decided we could play the game a different way. I dismounted and walked Glory through her obstacle. Even then, I had to coax her through and make her work (run in circles), until she chose to follow me.
After conquering that hangup, Glory was still fighting me. We went a bit further and again she stopped and refused to go forward. At this point, I discerned that Glory was not so much afraid as she was testing me. She simply wanted her will over mine and she was going to push me to see just how far I'd make her go. So I had to give her a reason to want to go forward. I had a lead rope with me, wound around the saddle horn. It's a handy thing to have in case of emergency, such as broken reins. So I took the lead rope and smacked her behind with it to encourage her to go. I didn't beat her with it; that would have accomplished nothing except to make her afraid of me and shut down her spirit. But I used it as a correction and to convince her that obedience was easier than rebellion. It worked! I had to use this method a few more times, but eventually all she needed was to see the rope swinging at her hindquarters in her peripheral vision, and she would go.
Then we came upon another obstacle that I knew she would not deal well with, even if I tried to discipline her. There was an irrigator in the cornfield, and the end-gun spray was passing back and forth over the path where we were going through. I knew if I could force Glory to walk past, she might easily spook, especially if we went through the spray. That could end badly for both of us, so once again I chose to lead her past. When she could see me right by her head, she was able to trust me more that she would be safe.
After passing the irrigator, we had a clear path in front of us. Clear, except for some potholes and the occasional pile of junk in the field...these too are things I have to watch out for, either to steer Glory around a potential danger or encourage her to keep going when she's distracted by scary looking stuff along the way. I let Glory have the freedom to run, and she did for a bit, but she was constantly changing speed. She never completely relaxed and let go. Only when we turned around and headed home did she truly become willing and eager, and would have run headlong the whole way if I had allowed it. But I required her to control herself and wait a little longer for her reward.
There are so many little lessons I can take from Glory's behavior. I think of how often, when God wants me to leave my comfort zone and take an opportunity to serve or reach out, I resist and balk. It doesn't have to be something completely new and unfamiliar....just the fact that I have to give up what I want in order to be available to God creates tension in my soul. Even though I've seen Him work through me before, I get scared. I try to tell Him it's too hard, I'm too tired, or it's not a convenient time. Yet even when I go reluctantly and my heart is not in it, God doesn't slam the door and say, "Fine, just go have it your way....I can't use you." With mercy, gentleness, and firmness, He urges me to go on. He uses the whole process to shape me.
Sometimes, as I did with Glory, God disciplines me or makes it uncomfortable to stay where I am, until I decide it's better to do what He's asking. Still, He knows my weakness and fears....He will not allow me to run and hide from those fears, but He knows how to lead me through them. In those times, He makes His presence stronger to me, like a Shepherd walking beside his lamb and sometimes picking it up and carrying it through the rough places. This is like me making myself visible to Glory and walking beside her when things get really scary.
Even in those times when I'm going along fairly willing and responsive to the Lord, my heart is frequently distracted by little doubts, by seemingly insignificant choices between the flesh and the Spirit, by physical limitations....the list could go on. Rarely am I going full speed ahead, trusting Jesus with abandon, and enjoying the adventure of this journey without restraint. I know God could do more with my life if I were fully yielded to the Spirit's control, just as I would delight in riding Glory at a full-out run, knowing she's giving me her all. God is working toward that goal of my free surrender. But it's a process. He knows it's not going to happen all at once, and He's not giving up on me just because I'm not there yet. He keeps on teaching and shaping and refining me to make me into something beautiful and fully useful to Him. And even though I get impatient and want to see instant results in my life and enjoy the rewards now, my Lord gently restrains me and keeps on reminding me that this takes time, but His timing is perfect. He is able to keep me from falling and present me faultless and complete before the throne of God on That Day when time is no more. (Jude 1:24)
Be encouraged, my friend. If you are alive today, the Lord is not finished with you.
"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10