Shortly after I began college, I went with some acquaintances on a short trail ride. I hadn’t ridden a horse in a long time, but I was glad for a reprieve from “busy-ness” to do something that I enjoyed.
When we arrived at the stables, we found the horses already saddled and standing ready for their riders. The trail leader promptly introduced us to the horses, sharing the names of each with its prospective rider. When he came to mine, he smiled a wry smile.
“That’s Blackberry,” he remarked smugly. “If he gets a little antsy, it’s a good idea to let him have his head.”
“Um … thanks,” I returned, wondering just how “antsy” Blackberry might get.
The others mounted and, in spite of a sudden sense of foreboding, I climbed into Blackberry’s saddle. We went down a faint path that led into a wooded area, but just as we came under the trees, Blackberry unexpectedly turned and made his way toward a sunny spot off the path in which some tall grass was growing. I pulled the reins to the left in an effort to turn him, but he obstinately resisted and continued on. I then pulled the reins up to try to stop him — and that’s when he gave his first kick. His back tossed me a few inches into the air and I instantly loosened on the reins.
Blackberry reached the grass and took a leisurely bite. I let him take another and then tried turning him again. This time he cooperated. He trotted back into line and I thought we were going to get along famously after that.
A few miles later, Blackberry decided to stop again. After allowing him a few bites and noticing that the line of riders had disappeared beyond the trees, I encouraged Blackberry to move on.
I pulled on the reins and pressed my heels into his side. “Giddap!” I barked. He glanced back towards me, but kept eating. I pulled forcefully on the reins and gave him a light kick with my heel (no stirrups were on my feet in case you wondered).
He suddenly threw his head back and began bucking. I stopped trying to control him and focused on keeping my center of gravity above him so that every time I became airborne (which was about every half second), I would land back in the saddle. I didn’t fall off and he eventually stopped bucking. He took a few more bites and then finally followed the others.
Blackberry began to trot, which became a canter. When I instinctively began to rein him in, he tossed his head and tensed up like he was thinking about losing me once and for all. I immediately let him have his head.
He went into a full gallop and we caught up with the other riders as they neared the end. We rode in with them as if nothing had happened, the only evidence that anything had was Blackberry’s heavy breathing and a film of perspiration glistening on his coat. Actually, I was perspiring a little, too, but it wasn’t because of exertion.
On the few times that I’ve ridden since then, I have always been reminded of Blackberry. There have been a few times, too, that I’ve thought of him even when not riding.
These moments are usually when, in my walk with God, I find Him leading me inexplicably in a direction away from the one I thought I ought to go.
In my enthusiasm to be fruitful for Him, I sometimes strive to move on to the tasks and opportunities that I think will be most worthwhile, but find myself steered circumstantially in the opposite way. Then, when I try to “take the reins” and change my course, He reminds me that He’s the Boss. Then I strive to simply keep centered on His “will for the now” instead of my own ideas. When I do so, I find that I do not have to worry so much about getting bruised and battered or about having to “climb back up again” into His will for my life and ministry.
There are also moments when I find that His leading in my life is picking up speed and, although I may at first try to rein Him in, the best thing to do is just hold on and trust Him to take me where He wants me to be.
Above all, whether we are feeling like God is holding us back or is moving us too fast, we must remember that His love for us is absolutely perfect. The Bible paints on the canvas of our hearts a clear picture of God’s love for us using the vivid colors of His faithfulness throughout the history of the world. At the center of this painting is the cross upon which Jesus died. When I see there all that love has done for me, I know that His daily leadings in my life are always right and good.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:11-14, 16a ESV).