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Out of the Comfort Zone

My favorite riding horse is a small black mare I’ve had for a few years now. Miss Chief (read ‘mischief’) is one of those horses that combines the rare combination of tractability and level-headedness with great heart and spirit. The icing on the cake is her smooth saddle gaits.

All of this didn’t come without cost, however. Miss Chief was ten years old when we brought her home from Kentucky. Her previous owner told me she had never been ridden. No matter how well bred and nicely conformed, I don’t like to breed a horse until I’m confident it is a useful riding (as in: "The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.") So one of the first things I did with the Kentucky bred mare was initiate her to the saddle. Turns out the previous owner was less than truthful. It was immediately apparent that the mare, though very green, had indeed been ridden. How did I know this? Her mouth had been ruined. The minute a bit went into her mouth, she was ready to blow. The least touch on the reins brought on such severe head tossing that I had to be careful not to lean very far forward, lest she break my nose. To say I was reluctant to ride the mare would be an understatement. Let’s face it, this middle aged woman is no buckaroo cowboy! But I saw tremendous potential in her, and the one other person I would have trusted to put time on her had little time to spare. Miss Chief would require time. Lots of it.

I braced up, and rode that mare the entire riding season. I recall a friend commenting one day that she was glad it was not her on top of that ‘crazy mare.’ If I’d been honest (instead of putting on a cool act), I’d have admitted it wasn’t my favorite place to be, either!

But ride we did. I used an extremely tactful bit, and stayed out of her mouth altogether except for light cues for stopping and turning. I learned how to sense what she required of me, and in turn taught her to tune in to my body cues. It was a precarious year, but we made great progress. The following year we made even more, despite giving her time off to foal. By the end of that season, she was reformed (re-formed: love that word!). She took things in stride, listened to my every cue, and was no longer a head tosser. She became such a genuine pleasure horse that we started using her for demonstrations at public expositions and clinics.

This would never have happened if I had chosen to stay in my own safe little comfort zone. In truth, I learned more from Miss Chief than she gained from me. We all need to be stretched and challenged if we want to develop our skills. This is no less true in our spiritual walk than in our equestrian pursuits. It is only by daring to take a chance, and putting our whole life on the line, that we can greatly increase our understanding of, and relationship with, God Almighty. It is only by venturing out into the battlefield of life, dressed in the ‘full armor of God,’ that we can hope to win great victories for Him!

Many of us are prone to limit ourselves to ‘safe’ Christian environments and friendships. While these are not bad in themselves, they can easily become a place to hide from the hard challenge of true faith, and the responsibility to use our entire lives as a tool for spreading the gospel to the world. It also limits the ways that God is able to reveal Himself to us, for as we develop ‘eyes to see,’ He reveals Himself to us in all things, religious and ‘secular.’

Mark 2:13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eats and drinks with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mark 16:15 And He said unto them, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. Romans 10: 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
 

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