Be Not Like the Horse or Mule
Psalm32: 8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
A few decades years ago, as the Lord began wooing me to Himself, the above scripture spoke strongly to my spirit. I was so taken by it that I meditated upon it-"pondered it in my heart"–for several days. In fact, I’ve been pondering it off and on ever since, and seldom fail to gain yet another perspective.
At that time my experience with equines was limited to jumping on anything that had four legs and a strong back as a kid. I naturally assumed that the meaning of the above verse was that I should not be like any horse or mule, as they are all rather stupid, intrinsically stubborn and willful creatures. The horses I’d had experience with–a neighbor’s half wild, untrained young stock, mostly–certainly fit this description.
Shortly thereafter the Lord opened the door for me to own a big golden palomino Quarter Horse, Champ. That animal did nothing at first to give me a different expectation than the one I already possessed. He was a barn sour, halter-pulling, wind sucking, choppy gaited, stubborn creature who happened to be as kind and beautiful as he was frustrating and difficult. It wasn’t long before I realized that, at the least, Champ wasn’t stupid–he certainly had my number!
This big palomino gelding continually challenged me to expand my understanding of horses. It was either that, or give up on him altogether–since I was totally smitten, that was out of the question. So I started studying the subject of horses with a vengeance. Every new thing I learned, whether it was through a book, video, live demonstration, another horseman, or simply via my own observations, was taken to my boarding stable and put to the real world test with that horse. (I still do this, but with a bit more discernment.) Over time, Champ and I started to come to an understanding. The first thing I needed to establish with him was that I, and not he, was in charge. After that things got easier. Champ was the best teacher I ever had!
Did I mention that Champ was ring sour? Well, he was. He’d gained his stable name from having garnered three national Register of Merits–and then had decided in no uncertain terms that enough was enough. He simply wouldn’t perform in a show ring. (See? Smart horse!) After I learned to respect his parameters, however, I took him to a large local open show and he allowed me to clean up on him in every class we entered–just so long as I didn’t take him into a practice ring. Since I was only showing that once, just to prove to myself that I could succeed at it if I desired, this suited me just fine.
When I started publishing articles in horse magazines, he was invariably the model for accompanying photographs-and quite a ham, at that. One picture I shot for an article titled "The Myth of the Free Horse" has him with a mixture of hay and fake dollar bills sticking out of his mouth. I swear he deliberately looked voracious! Many children, ours and others, were raised on Champ, and he taught them well. One day when he was in his late teens our youngest daughter Jamie jumped on his big, broad back out in the pasture, sans saddle, halter or bridle. Holding onto a piece of his mane and using only her seat and legs, she had that big gold horse working around the field like the old pro he truly was. It was a magnificent sight, and the memory of it still brings tears to my eyes.
It was then that I started to understand what the Lord really meant when He spoke of being not like the horse or mule "which have no understanding." Champ had learned to respect us, and to be sensitive to our lightest riding cue. He didn’t need to be forced via "bit and bridle" to understand and execute the desires of his master–he did so willingly, out of great love.
What effective servants of God we would be if we could work to become as sensitive, well trained and willing as that grand old horse! Psalms 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.