Not Just Horsing Around
During retreat, our youth group, along with a few guides, went horseback riding on a trail, in a line, where I noticed some things that make good horse-sense for life:
First, the horse encounters temptation on every side along the way—grass abounds all around, and when given free-rein, the horse will naturally get distracted and partake of it. This holds up progress, which the guides don’t like, so they holler at the rider to “pull up!” and move on.
Sometimes we’re the horse on the trail-- the temptations along life’s journey may not be bad things—after all, grass is normally ok horse food. But they can distract us and keep us from moving forward toward our goals. After a while, when we’ve finally had our fill or it’s all gone, we discover all the time we wasted. We can also get too full to hunger for the best. Also, the temptation could be harmful!
Plus, when we let ourselves get distracted by temptation, we become a bad influence on others. Ever notice how when one horse stops to eat, others take that as their cue for snack-time? We could be hindering others from reaching their goals.
That’s why we need someone to “pull us up” and get us going again. This can be a wise friend, family-member, leader, pastor-- anyone mature in the Lord. Ultimately, it’s best for us to be getting this from the Lord Himself, as we stay receptive to His leading. (Is. 30:21) Sometimes, the Lord calls on us to be like the rider or guide, pulling others up and away from temptations that would distract them, bog them down, and even cause harm. (James 5:19-20)
Second, the horses had to be paced well and follow the same path to stay aligned with the group. If any horse started to go too fast, they would overtake other horses and upset the alignment (not to mention other horses and riders!). Or if any horse went too slow or stopped, it caused a major break in the line, and the group couldn’t stay together. If the lead horse went too fast, he’d leave the rest of the group behind. If the last horse moseyed along taking his own sweet time, he’d be left behind. If any of the horses decided to just make their own way and not follow the one before it, they’d find themselves alone, no longer part of the group.
In life, we encounter the same reality. Those that care only about getting ahead and pushing past others, don’t get along well, and upset everyone around them. Leaders who don’t patiently ensure the rest of the group stays with them, find themselves leading no one, because the followers have disappeared in the dust. At the same time, followers do need to keep up to support the group and not get left behind.
As for anyone deciding not to follow anyone and forge their own path through life, they’ll end up living in isolation, not really belonging to anyone or any group. We can “follow the beat of a different drummer”, but don’t expect to be part of the band! Why does this matter? Because whether in a forest or life in general, isolated people can easily get lost and hurt, with no one there to protect them from danger and enemies. They also have no support, no encouragement, no guidance, no one who cares, and no one to matter too. That can get old really quickly, even to the most “rugged individualist”. Wolves attack lone sheep. Lone wolves don’t fare too well either, which is why they run in packs. (Heb. 10:23-25; Prov. 17:17; Prov. 27:17)
Third—Going up hills, the guides instructed us to lean forward, into our horse’s neck, holding the reins close there. Life-application? In this case, the horse represents the Lord. When life becomes an uphill climb on a rocky trail, lean into Him, stay as close as possible, and don’t let go. Also, trust Him to carry us when we need it, and enjoy the ride! (Is. 41:10)
Hopefully I didn’t “saddle” anyone with too much to think about here. I wouldn’t want any “neigh”-sayers either! :)