Last week I had the opportunity to see a video of my daughter maneuvering obstacles on her horse, Stanley, without a saddle or a bridle. Let’s just consider that for a minute. Emma was riding a 1500-pound animal and the only manner in which to control him was by leg commands and trust and respect. Stanley, the 1500-pound beast, has a free will. He has the ability to fully refuse to do what Emma asks him to do, and if he exerted his free will to its full extent, Emma could end up on the ground and potentially hurt. But Stanley gives way to Emma. He trusts Her. He trusts the relationship they have and the foundation of care they have built as a team. He reverts to what he knows to be true about Emma, and despite any temptation to misbehave, spook or go sideways (which we can sometimes see go through his mind), he makes the choice to lean in to the foundation they have established and trust that she has his back, regardless of what he might be tempted to do.
Emma has experienced the opposite of that relationship on a horse also. A couple years ago she was at a horse show on our first horse, Hana. Hana was a reliable, sweet, mare, but something happened during warm ups that day that spooked her. She bucked and bucked in an arena full of horses and riders as Emma tried with all her might to restrain Hana, until, in the end, Emma was thrown. Hana had something happen that caused her to act in a manner not consistent in her relationship with Emma. It was a behavior that was a complete blindside to Emma and threatened to take Emma out completely. Emma, my girl, got up, brushed herself off, iced her back, and got back on another horse and competed anyway. In the aftermath, we realized that Hana was on the wrong feed, which caused her to be more agitated than she had been in the past and that contributed to the out-of-character exertion of her free will in that moment. We dug in with Hana and figured out what was wrong and resolved the issue that threatened to destroy the relationship between Emma and Hana.
Don’t we all have Hana moments? Where we want to just scream against the world, buck the monkeys off our back, and do completely and utterly only what we want? Don’t we fight our free will at every turn? And yet, God granted us that dangerous free will. Why? Ultimately, so we would choose Him and allow our foundation of knowledge and relationship with Him to cause us to rest in that wisdom and trust and to follow His gentle and loving leading. Free will is being unbridled, having the ability to go sideways, and yet leaning in to the trust and care we know we receive from God and giving him the reins.
Stanley, in that unbridled moment with Emma, was the picture of what God intends in relationships. Two people who trust one another and give way to the direction and requests of each other in a very fluid, loving and concerned manner. I am always in awe when I see Emma and Stanley together. The importance of relationship and trust is paramount to their success. Emma has only had Stanley for eleven months and yet, everyone who knows horses and specifically knows Stanley and Emma comments on the strong level of trust the two of them share and how much they both want to do what the other one needs and is asking for.
As I continue to receive calls from friends and acquaintances who are struggling in marriage or in the midst of divorce, it breaks my heart that we cannot find a space where we can trust another person and work toward common ground, even in our unbridled state. It is a push and pull between our human desire to get our way and the relationship that God desired for us from the beginning.
How much easier would life be if we were bridled? If God would just yank people back when they start to go sideways. It would be so much easier if He yanked us back quickly and swiftly with little ramifications on our relationships. But, He created us to be unbridled, so we would learn to lean in to him and then to jointly make a decision to work toward common ground and partnership with patience, care, understanding, and love.
I didn’t want to have anything to do with divorce. I didn’t want to divorce in the first place and I now, do not want what it brings. I don’t want to be a divorcee, a single parent, a strong mom, a ‘you have it all together’ person. However, I have an unbridled hope in my knowledge of God and what He can and will do with the good that He began in my life. My mantra scriptures in the midst of this unbridled hope are:
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7
“..being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
We all go sideways. But God will always provide a manner of restoration. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 it says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
There are a million tiny messages in this scripture. For my purposes and in my life, I know that God has worked in His restorative power in my heart and life after I had a Hana experience and was thrown off the horse and knocked flat. He provided a way to healing and restoration that was different that what I anticipated or expected. Whether you are a Hana or a Stanley, or the partner to one of them, God wants for you to lean in to Him, first and foremost. Trust Him in an unbridled manner with no expectations of outcome. Draw from your foundation in Him and what you know to be true for yourself. He is in the midst and truly wants your unbridled humanness to rest and trust in him.
By His Grace