I’m one of the honored few. Our horse Tuxedo greets me regularly the way trusting horses meet one another: by coming nose-to-nose, breathing in each other’s breath. It takes trust, especially for a human being: one push of his head against my face could knock me silly. But it’s trust on his part, too – an affirmation of kinship that has nothing to do with dominance.
Animals know a lot more than many human beings do. Some new friends of ours came to our property today especially to meet our horses. The wife carries a portable oxygen tank and does very well with it. When she came close to our other horse, Gunner (my special guy), he rested his nose on her chest, as if he knew her need for healing in her lungs. It was a God moment for all four of us human beings.
When we steward our relationships with others, we begin by paying attention, listening, watching and learning. And when the animals we care for are teaching us, there is a lot of compassion to learn.
Your partner in ministry,
In the bad old days, cowboys used to “break” horses by using pain to force them into accepting a rider and multiple restraints. Some people still do that to horses. But domination does not produce trust, and horses that have been taught through pain will see the rider as a predator and will always want to break out.
Thankfully there’s a whole generation of natural-horsemanship trainers now who teach “coming alongside” the horse as a human partner, using the horse’s visual language to communicate, engender trust, and teach desired behavior. One nationally-known horse clinician says it’s a three-part matter of “love, language and leadership.” This approach of coming alongside the horse to teach and lead him has revolutionized horse-human relationships – including with the horses my husband and I own and love.
So you can imagine my delight when our pastor first said that God “comes alongside us” to help, teach and guide us through human situations of struggle and pain. In fact, “coming alongside” is a favorite phrase of his – and a favorite pastime for God. When God nurtures and strengthens us through tough times individually and through crises as a people, it encourages us to learn crucial life lessons and to trust God, and also to come alongside other people, particularly those who have no other advocates. There’s a ripple-out effect that, in turn, empowers trust, courage and partnership with one another.
Thank You, God, for coming alongside us in so many ways, including through Jesus Christ himself. Help us to be willing, active partners with You and with others in Your name. Amen.