My grandpa had a small ranch when I was around eight years old. As soon as I had greeted my grandparents and gotten permission, I would be off to make my rounds to see Joey the black steer, the slightly scary chicken house, the murky brown pond with a duck or two to visit, the towering pine trees standing guard and taking tickets to the fields in which grazed cattle belonging to the neighbors. I might even catch a glimpse of the neighbors’ indoor/outdoor donkey and pug puppies or hold their pet raccoon.
The best part, though, was Grandpa’s barn with the horses inside, Ginger and Shannon. Whenever I visited, Grandpa would hoist me up on gentle Shannon’s back and lead us on a mild walk around the property. I wasn’t allowed on Ginger’s back, which was fine with me since she scared me. You see, my grandpa wasn’t exactly a horse whisperer. Ginger wasn’t quite tame. When anyone rode on her back, she didn’t follow along nicely. She walked backward.
I’m not quite tame, either. Sometimes when my Master wants to lead me forward, I walk backward, too. Thankfully, my Master isn’t done with my training—He’s still in the long, patient process of breaking me.
The phrase breaking a horse sounds so brutal and violent. It conjures up images of whips and spurs and harshly spoken words. Now, although my husband and I spent our first six months of marriage living on a horse ranch in the middle of golden rolling hills, we never learned more about horses there than the fact that they make very loud sounds kicking their stalls in the middle of the night. I know little more from experience about horses than what I already mentioned about my grandpa’s ranch. However, when I looked up information about breaking a horse, I found that some even want to change the name of breaking to gentling to give a clearer picture of how it is done right.
Breaking a horse badly can lead to a rebellious, untrustworthy horse; breaking a horse gently builds trust and relationship between the horse and rider for a lifetime. I learned it takes a long time—the one doing the job must be very patient and never show agitation or anger, even when the horse is acting in a very frustrating way. The master talks, moves, and touches the wild horse gently at all times, spending time brushing, petting, and giving it treats. The master uses older, trained, experienced horses to guide the untrained one in what to do. If he uses a whip, he only uses it to tap the ground near the horse. When the horse finally wears a saddle for the first time and desperately tries to shake it off, the master gets the horse walking—the focus on forward motion provides calm and distraction.
This is how God has been with me all my life. He doesn’t whip me harshly into action, although He might do this and have reason to do this from time to time. He is sweet and gentle with my soul, showing His trustworthiness so my trust in Him is built day by day. He is patient with me, giving me grace for my wild heart. He gives me more rewards than I could ever deserve. He puts other experienced believers in front of me to model right attitudes and behaviors. He gets me moving in a right direction when I want to focus my eyes on my suffering.
If a horse is not broken, it can’t be used. I want more than anything else to be used by God, my Master. So I pray, Please, God, break me that I might trust You more and be used by You.