The Transforming Power of Love
A few years ago I met Karen, a fellow horsewoman who rode a big paint horse. The paint had a reputation for being as rank as he was strong. Karen was a little slip of a thing who had only ridden for a year or two. This was her first horse. To my mind, it was not a match made in heaven.
The first time we rode together on the trail did little to change my mind. He was as strong a goer as the huge, rather fractious horse I was riding, and appeared to be even more undependable. His refusals took the form of rearing. High. While this gal was evidently athletic, my sense was that—sooner or later—this big horse would get the better of her. I was very concerned that she might end up being seriously injured.
At some point during that day Karen asked what I thought of her horse, and my response was frank. “If he were mine, I’d be thinking about finding him a home with a real cowboy and looking for something more dependable.” I knew I would never be tempted to take on such an animal myself, and since she was less experienced than I, did not believe she had the skills to overcome the problems I observed on that ride.
I hadn’t counted on the power of love. . .and of the patience and persistence it engenders. This past spring I had the pleasure of riding with Karen again. She was still on her big paint, and he was still a strong horse to ride; he did not, however, demonstrate any of the dangerous antics previously exhibited. Karen was riding with more confidence, and it was evident that the communication between them had improved dramatically.
“Karen,” I said, riding along beside her (something I would not have done on our last ride together), “What have you done with your horse? He is behaving so much better—I’m really impressed!”
“I’ve been working him all winter in an indoor arena,” she said, with a well-deserved hint of pride. “We’ve been practicing one-rein stops, and I’ve learned to use his excess energy to my benefit.” She went on to outline the practical steps she had taken to harness this animal’s energy and change him into a magnificent riding horse. After listening to her I was not only impressed by the horse, but by Karen’s loving persistence in the face of what must have seemed like dangerous, willful mischief. She explained how every time a new misbehavior cropped up, she painstakingly found a way to defuse the situation and deal with things patiently and appropriately. Her loving attention had transformed the horse; I’ve little doubt it may have even saved his life, as few people would have invested as much time and energy in the animal as she did.
I am not advocating that anyone work with an unpredictable horse that is above his or her skill level. This situation, however, convicted me about how quickly I sometimes am to give up on working out problems with ‘unlovable’ or ‘high maintenance’ people. Perhaps if we demonstrated the same kind of patient, persistent love toward difficult people as Karen did toward her horse we would not only discover a person of true value—but might play a role in helping to bring redemptive transformation into their lives.
I Cor. 13: 4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Matt. 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?