Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lessons From Reva: Misjudging

Let's talk about Reva again.  She has some good things to teach us about character judgments.  Have you ever had a first impression about someone that turned out to be completely wrong when you got to know them?  What about a friend you've known for several years who does some things you can't understand, and then they allowed you into some deep places from their past and suddenly it all made sense?

I already talked about the way Reva runs away in the pasture, and how she hangs back when being led out of her comfort zone.  She's somewhat of a loner in the herd too.  While the other horses will often challenge each other and buck the chain of authority, Reva avoids conflict as much as possible.  I rarely find teeth marks on her.

There's another thing Reva does that is hard to understand.  She has something against fence posts.  She doesn't like to walk up to the post and sometimes refuses to step forward.  It's not as bad now, but she used to spook and take fits when tied up to the post.  The smallest things would set her off, and sometimes there didn't appear to be anything that spooked her; it's like something inside her head just snapped.  She would lunge backwards and pull against the post with all her strength.  She still does that every so often.  Our horse trainer has worked with Reva on overcoming this problem, and she would stand tied without a problem for months, and then she'd have another episode.  Because of the tremendous force of her pulling back, she could potentially hurt herself or someone near her or pull a post out of the ground.  So we usually loop her rope over the fence rather than tie.  That way if she feels she needs a sudden getaway, she can go without making it a big deal.  We don't know what is in Reva's past, but there's a good chance that she was injured or abused while tied, and the memory of that trauma is still in her head.  Horses don't forget.  If they are raised with kindness and common sense, never given a reason to be scared of you, they will trust you and will easily trust other people as well.  But do something to break that trust, and you can never erase the memory.  A horse that has been traumatized by a past owner will take much longer to learn to trust a new person.

I think Reva trusts the staff here, because we have worked long and patiently with her and haven't given her reason to distrust us.  But the old pain is still there.  And sometimes the memory of that trauma takes over her brain and her fear instinct kicks in.  In that moment, the fear is greater than the trust relationship that we have built with her.  This makes me want to cherish the trust that someone puts in me and be so very careful not to break it.

From all of Reva's drama, I could conclude that she is timid, nervous, unfriendly, and has too many fear issues to be of use to me.  But I don't know her past.  I don't know what she's been through or come out of.  One of the staff who was here when Reva first came to the ranch remembers what she used to be like.  He said when you went to catch her, she wouldn't run away or come to you; she would just stand there and stare at you with listless eyes, as if she'd been used for so long that she didn't care anymore.  And she was absolutely terrified of the fence posts.  Compared to a few years ago, Reva has come a long way.  And if I could have known her then, I would understand how much she has changed.  Now I realize that when she runs in the pasture, she's expressing her personality, something she didn't do when she first came.  She actually cares about what happens to her.  Sometimes she may just feel really good and is playing catch me if you can!  If she's testing us to see how far we will pursue her, then it shows she is willing to be in relationship, but is a little unsure.  She is thinking and feeling and responding to us, instead of just going through the motions because she's been terrified into submission.  She is truly a sweet and willing horse when you get to know her.  And she responds beautifully to people who handle her with sensitivity and confidence.  You can't judge a book, a horse, or a person by their cover.

"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7

Lessons From Reva: Comfort Zones

Reva is a beautiful, dark brown Thouroughbred who was among the first horses to come to His Ranch. Her colt, Noah, was born here four years ago.  Reva is not as easy to get close to as some of our other horses.  She doesn't act out much with the other horses and tends to keep to herself.  But she has quite the inner drama going on when you get to know her.  I've gotten to know Reva quite well over the last year, because, incidently, she and I have a lot in common.  I want to share what Reva has taught me in hopes that someone reading this can relate and find diamonds of truth in the rough of their life also.

You know how it's easy to judge a person by their personality and behavior without knowing their heart?  I've been guilty of doing that to Reva.  Every time we go into the pasture to catch her, she runs away.  It looks like she is afraid of us and doesn't want to be with us.  We have to chase her for awhile until she decides to stop and allow us into her space.  It makes me feel like she is standoffish and unfriendly.  But I wonder how many people have thought the same about me.  I was very socially uncomfortable growing up.  I still struggle with this to some extent, but God has changed me a lot.  Deep down, I wanted to be with people and be liked, but I was afraid.  I didn't have any good reason to fear, but I felt so awkward with people I didn't know well and was afraid that if they really knew me they wouldn't like me.  Pride kept me from being vulnerable.  I was afraid of messing up and looking stupid in front of others.  So I stayed in the background.  I waited for others to come and make me feel safe.  It's taken me a long time to learn to reach out and be more concerned with making the other person feel comfortable.  God has used a lot of things in my life to bring me out of that comfort zone.  He does it every day as I meet and  build relationships with different people on the ranch.  I love what I get to do here, but that doesn't mean it's easy to keep reaching out.  We are naturally such creatures of comfort.  We build comfort zones everywhere we go.  So it's a blessing to me to realize that God puts me in places where I have to continually step out of my zone so that I can grow.  He knows I would stagnate and shrivel up if He left me where I want to be.

When we lead Reva out of her comfort zone, the pasture, she goes reluctantly, putting one foot gingerly in front of the other almost like she's tip-toeing.  She has been taken out of the pasture countless times before.  She is familiar with the places we take her on a daily basis: the round pen, the riding arena, the barn.  Is she afraid?  Is she just timid?  That's what I think sometimes, but when I take a look at myself I begin to understand her better.  This is probably a game that she plays.  Once we get her working in the round pen, or saddled up in the arena, her attitude changes.  She is eager and ready to go.  She doesn't want to walk slowly or stand still.  I don't think Reva is truly afraid; she simply doesn't want to leave her comfort zone.  She doesn't want to step outside of what feels perfectly happy and safe to her.  Just like me.  Just like you.  Once she gets out of that zone and shifts her focus onto the work she's given to do, she is willing and she does it well.  But she is not naturally inclined to do that while resting in her happy place.

When Reva runs from us in the pasture, perhaps she truly does enjoy spending time with people, but she wants to know how badly we want her.  She plays hard to get because she wants us to pursue her.  And because she still believes her comfort zone is better.  We have to show her that stopping is a better idea.  She makes us work to get her, but she's making herself work too.  When she realizes she is wasting energy because we are not going to give up, she is willing to let us in.  I know Reva can't think through all that, but I have definitely played that game with other people throughout my life.  Satan had me believing that a lot of people didn't see me as desirable and worth loving, so I kept my distance until someone would make the effort to pursue me.  It wasn't until I believed the truth that Jesus in me is all about loving rather than being loved, that I began learning to willingly take the risk of opening my heart, being myself, and even pursuing others.

The biggest hurdle that Reva, you, and I must overcome in leaving our comfort zones is to trust our master enough to follow anywhere.  Stepping into things that are unfamiliar, that look like work, or that don't come naturally to us goes against our grain.  We struggle to believe that it's worth the risk and the effort.  I believe we were created to be at peace in every aspect of our lives, and deep inside each one is the desire for rest.  A place of absolute safety and well-being.  Where do we find this rest?  The world cannot offer it.  The prince of this world, Satan, rules through confusion and illusion and discontentment.  "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there."  James 3:16
The pleasures and comforts in this life are temporary and will soon fade away.  "For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever."  1 John 2:16-17

Here lies our only hope.  Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  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."  Matthew 11:28-29
Did you catch that?  Yes, Jesus does have work for you to do.  Like the oxen that are yoked together to pull a plow, Jesus is calling us to step into the yoke with Him.  WITH HIM, my friend.  He enables you to do His will.  He provides the strength, the ability, the understanding.  He will never leave you to pull alone; He is in the yoke beside you.  And in that place where He is training you and using you to accomplish His purposes, you will find the rest and  peace that your soul so desires.  Here is another promise that has meant a great deal to me in the last few months.  Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  John 14:27
If you belong to Jesus, you have His peace.  All you have to do is believe that it's yours.

What zone is your Master calling you to step into today?  Where is He leading you that you don't want to go?  Believe Him.  Choose trust.  Go with Him by faith.  He is your rest.  Stay in His zone, and nothing can steal your peace, for He is the Prince of Peace.