We've talked a lot here about the nature of a horse, but I think it's important at times to go back to the basics and discover deeper meaning in a familiar concept. Much of what we teach the kids on the ranch is repetition. Horses learn through repetition, and guess what? So do people! Every summer we refresh the kids and ourselves in the basics of safety, the nature of horses, and good communication with your horse.
So let's step into the horse's world for a moment.
Imagine that you are a horse living in the wild. Here is what you know. Herd. Food. Water. Predators. Self-preservation. There are creatures out there that want to eat you. Your number one goal in life is to stay alive. Eating is a close second. If you are not resting or on the move, you are eating. You were born into a herd. They are your whole world. Herd equals security. There is a clear pecking order within your herd. The stallion is on top. He maintains order, demands respect, and defends his territory. He looks out for all the mares and foals. Next in line is the boss mare. She helps the stallion lead the herd in the search for food and water. Everyone else has their own place of authority and submission within the family. There is strength in numbers. Leave the herd, and you become completely vulnerable to predators. You are constantly aware of everything around you and on the alert for danger. Any time you feel threatened, your first instinct is to run, which you do very well, because God gave you long, athletic legs, a well-muscled body, and great endurance.
Now imagine you are a young domesticated horse living among other horses on a ranch. You have been exposed to humans from birth and generally feel comfortable around them. Your fight or flight response is significantly tamed down from that of a wild horse. You are exposed to a great many strange objects and sounds on a daily basis and have learned that they do not hurt you. But you are still a horse. You will always be a horse. That raw nature of the wild is still within you. Your life consists of eating and companionship with the herd.
Then, one day, a human steps into your pasture. He wants to be with you and work with you. But by nature, you could care less. Your instinct does not compel you to be with this human. You never asked to enter his world. He asked to enter yours. This person puts a rope around your head and takes you away from your herd and food. He puts you in a small, round pen. Suddenly your world has shifted. The herd consists of one horse and one human. You are used to people, so you're not particularly threatened, but you aren't interested in being with him. He's a strange creature who doesn't speak your language, with an agenda that you don't understand. Until now, life has been about you. Apart from your place in the order of the herd, you are free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want. The world as you know it revolves around you. So what is your response to this human presence? You run. And it's okay. There is space to run. But you can't get completely away from this human. So you try to ignore him. But he is using your language! And suddenly you realize that there is someone else in the center of your world. He makes it clear by his body language that he is the dominant horse in this herd of two. You are not simply running from him. He is using the behavior of the lead stallion to drive you around the outside of the territory. Your brain begins to make a shift. Now your natural instinct is to show submission and ask for acceptance into the safe place of the herd. And then it happens. The human, now your alpha horse, stops pushing you out and begins to invite you in. You decide to risk trusting him and walk into the center to be with him. And in that center, you find rest. Release from the pressure. Companionship. A new leader you can trust to watch your back and provide for your needs. From this foundation, a solid relationship of mutual respect is built between horse and human. When you choose to be with your master in the center, you find that he becomes your safe place.
Every one of us is born with a nature that tells us, "I am the center of my world. I run this show." Then God steps in, and we don't want Him. So we run. "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned - every one - to his own way." Isaiah 53:6
Like the horse who has no interest in the human agenda, we have no desire to be with God. "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside...." Romans 3:11-12
But God knows how to speak our language. He made us. So He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to enter our world. He showed us God in a way we could understand. He walked with us, talked with us, touched us, healed bodies and hearts, and loved us like no one else ever had. And then He died in our place to invite us to come back into the center, into the intimate relationship with God that we were made for. His death and resurrection demonstrates His rightful place as Lord. He has authority over all powers, even death itself!
Sooner or later, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all realize that there is Someone else in the center of our universe. He wants to be our whole world. But you and I have a choice that a horse does not have. The horse operates on instinct. You can predict his response based on how well you are communicating in his language. He accepts your authority by nature.
The Bible tells us that one day every knee will bow to Jesus and every person will confess that He is Lord. On that day we will have no other choice. But right now, we can choose come to God and submit to Him in the center, or we can continue to rebel against Him and run our own show. Those who come to Him now will find rest. Perfect love. Healing for your heart. Safety from spiritual evil. Peace in the midst of hard things. Joy that doesn't depend on circumstances. An intimate relationship that will last forever. Those who refuse Him will be eternally banished from relationship with Him on the day when all must bow. For them, there will be no rest.
Have you found center? What is your choice?
"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28