Part of my years of growing up were spent on our family farm. And on our farm, we had a horse. This was not a great, powerful draft horse that could have been used to help make things easier for those of us who labored on our “low energy” farm (a misnomer — the work has to get done without regard to what entity has to do it, so the energy level remains even). Nor was this a fast horse which might be entered in races that could help in family finances. This was a quarter horse, bought primarily to please my sister who loved horses, and her name was Jo.
If you have never had much experience with quarter horses, let me give you a quick primer. They came about during the 17th century as a result of cross-breeding between English thoroughbred horses brought to America and native American horses developed from Spanish stock left in America by early Spanish expeditions. They tend to be short,
heavily muscled, and very intelligent. They also have the capability of defying the laws of physics — they can do things that a four-legged, 800 pound animal just shouldn’t be able to do. For instance, they can accelerate from zero to fifty-five miles per hour in a quarter mile (where they get their name) — faster than any other type of horse. They can also do this one-hop-then-plant-all-four-of-your-legs-like-tree-stumps trick that can take you from fifty-five back to zero in one horse length. Additionally, they can plant one foot and pivot ninety degrees in either direction from a dead gallop. All of these maneuvers are important to the horse’s primary work of herding other animals but can be unsettling (or more likely, unseating,) to the rider who is unsure about what the horse is planning. Trust me, they do plan and they can count.
Jo, for instance, was seven or eight years old when we got her. She liked women and children. We know she could count because of her behavior when we had an extended-family cook-out or something at our house. At some point, some of the children would clamor to ride the horse. Jo knew her job and would be waiting in the paddock to be saddled. At this point, she counted all the women and children in the queue. Then she would allow each woman or child to clamber up into the saddle and give them a gentle ride around the pasture. She knew her business so well, that even small or inexperienced riders could hold the reins themselves rather than be led by someone else. Jo knew where to go and how to go to keep the rider on her back. Every woman and child had a great time. The trouble only came at the end of the session or if a man tried to ride. As I said, Jo had counted the women and children in the beginning. When all of them had received their ride around the pasture, she believed her job was done. Now it was time for her to be unsaddled, rubbed-down, given her apple or sugar cube, and released back to the pasture. The woman or child who wanted a second circuit or the man who wanted to ride even once had better know how to stay in the saddle. Jo would employ all her quarter horse ways to unhorse the unwanted rider — sudden take-offs with extreme acceleration, preferably if you’d only just put your foot in the stirrup and were still hanging off the side; sudden stops; sudden turns. If these all failed, she would go to Plan B. She had carefully measured the heights of all the lower-hanging branches of every tree in the pasture (really, I saw her doing it once). She would choose the branch best capable of clearing her saddle without making her duck her head excessively; then run right under it, sweeping the rider off. If Plan B failed, Plan C was the roll-over — she’d slowly lay down and roll over. The rider had the choice of getting off or getting squished. If all of these plans failed, she would figure the rider knew his/her stuff and, finally, get on with the ride.
I tell you all of these things because it sometimes seems to me that we Christians are a lot like Jo. We’re willing to do the work of God on Earth — but only so far. We’ve defined for ourselves what it means to be a Christian — created our own job description, so to speak — and we are unwilling to go beyond that. We decide when we’ve done enough, given enough, had enough. We might tell ourselves that we are unable to do more, but we don’t actually know. We all have heard of amazing things that men and women of faith have done, but we’re sure that those were special, “called” people. They’re certainly not us, we ordinary folk. So, like Jo, we employ all manner of stratagems to stay in our comfort zones and avoid what God wants of us. However, like Jonah, we may find that, try as we might to resist His will, in the end all will be better served (ourselves included) if we be about our Father’s business. Let’s just get on with the ride.
~ Kurt Hendrix
Originally published in the Wingate UMC newsletter for July 2015.
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