Saturday, June 9, 2012

On horses and blind faith

Every once in a while, I become a horse racing enthusiast.

Since 2003, when a pretty gelding named Funny Cide captured the heart and imagination of America as he made a run for the Triple Crown, I have halfway followed the sport of horse racing.  Really, I only follow it for the major races: all of the jewels of the Triple Crown, the Santa Anita, the Breeders Cup races, and the Kentucky Oaks.  This year might prove to be the first time since 1978 that a horse will win the Triple Crown, as I'll Have Another has already captured the first two races (the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes).  [Edit: while this blog was in draft status, I'll Have Another scratched from the Belmont due to tendonitis, and then promptly retired from his race career.  Such a shame that an injury has made it impossible for him to be able to continue his career, but I am glad that the horse's health is of paramount importance.]

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

So this week, I'm going to be thinking a lot about horses.  Hopefully that will remind me to catch my own horse and grain him more often, but we will see how that goes. :)

Horses are a funny animal that I struggle to embrace with open arms, even though by marriage to my husband I find myself the owner of three equids.  I would probably feel more confident around horses if HORSES were more confident.  They are fidgety prey animals, prone to spooking at the slightest of provocations.  If they were the size of a domestic cat, this would not be a problem, but horses typically weigh over a thousand pounds.  Not our miniature horse, though.  He is only a couple hundred pounds.

This extreme anxiety in horses can render them useless or dangerous in some situations.

There is a scene in my favorite movie, "Gone with the Wind", where Scarlett and Rhett are attempting to flee Atlanta as the city burns.  Sherman's army is approaching, and the Confederate army is burning the depot and their military supplies so that the Union army does not benefit from the use of their items.  As Scarlett and Rhett try to maneuver their horse and cart past a burning three-story building, the horse balks at the fire in front of and around him.  Try as he might, Rhett cannot convince the horse to budge, so Scarlett tosses him a garment for Rhett to wrap around the horse's face.  Once the horse cannot see any danger around him, he moves forward and Rhett and Scarlett successfully escape the charred city.

For all of our talk about how living in high definition has been the ticket for us to walk this cancer journey well, it has recently struck me that living by blind faith has been just as equally important as we attempt to maneuver our way through a figurative fire.

You see, when Ryan was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, I felt like I had been punched repeatedly in the gut, struggling for breath and composure.  Life was a pane of glass that had just been shattered into a million pieces, and I struggled for months trying to glue the little shards back together.  As I frantically tried to figure out what my husband's cancer diagnosis meant for my family and I, I came to a point where I realized that I could not move forward and be an effective vessel for the Lord, an effective caretaker for my husband, and be a good mama to my son unless I learned to place my trust in the Lord for what my future was going to hold.  In other words, until I decided to strap on blinders and trust my Jockey to steer me safely to the finish line, I was not going to finish this race well.  In case the word "blinders" is not in your vocabulary, it is a piece of tack that is often used in racing and driving disciplines because some trainers feel that it helps keep the horse focused on what is directly in front of him instead of the distractions around him.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don't see.

I do not understand fully why God has placed us on this journey.  At times I see glimpses of the purposes that He has for us in the midst of this, but I do not get the whole picture.  Thankfully, that's not my job.  I am only to concern myself with my faith in God.  Hebrews 11 lists a lot of things that the giants of the Bible did because of their faith.  Then it continues as such...

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Read the rest of Hebrews 11.  We are talking about people that have literally wandered the desert for years upon years, people who have taken gutsy risks, people who have endured unimaginable hardships, and waited years upon years to see their heirs materialize.  Not by choice, we have been placed on a difficult journey with seemingly insurmountable odds against us.  Our walls of Jericho are seriously tall.  And we may both die without completely understanding why God has thrown us this curveball.  Maybe Ryan will be healed, maybe he won't.  But just as a horse could easily be distracted by the perils and problems around him, so could we also fall prey to the tempting idea of self-pity and fear.

There is another choice, though, one that I'm thankful we have both resolved to make.  To live by blind faith is both a difficult and yet a very simple choice.  It is difficult because it requires us to lay down our very lives before the Lord and say, "Do what you will."  That is far easier to type than it is to actually do.  But truthfully, the actual process is simple.  Trust.  Trust.  Trust even when it makes no sense.  Strap on a set of blinders and quit looking around you at all of the potential danger.  Trust God even when your life is threatened.  Trust God even when you're seething with anger against Him.  Trust Him even when life is easy and it's so easy to drift away from His control and you don't "need" Him.  As a horse has to trust his master that he means him no harm, so we must trust that our God's plans for our lives really are intended for our spiritual prosperity.  Trust, trust, trust.

Proverbs 3
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
    fear the Lord and shun evil. 
8 This will bring health to your body 
    and nourishment to your bones.

So how does a horse make the decision to trust when there is a fire raging around him, or twenty other horses are jockeying for position around him?  And how do we trust God when life circumstances seem so daunting?

First, the horse leans not on his own understanding.  In all his ways, he submits to his master.

Throw something over a horse's eyes and ironically, instead of being fearful of not being able to see, he relaxes.  Instead of relying on his own poor eyesight to guide his steps, he relies upon the skillful, watchful hand of his loving master.  So also should we submit to the will of God in our lives, as His ways are truly higher than ours, but also have the promise that He works all things out to the good of those that love Him.

And secondly, we have to retool our thinking.  I think that if I were a horse, I would be a bucking horse.  I'm the type of person that bucks when a difficult situation crops up.  That is because I often forget this concept:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-4)  A wise person does not see problems, but only opportunities.  Trials are opportunities for us to mature in our faith, to encourage people in similar situations, and to demonstrate the work that God has done for us thus far.  God has done so much in my own heart in the last fifteen months that I can hardly remain bitter for this fork in the road.

What is holding you back from trusting in God?  Are you too distracted by the problems you face?  I would encourage you to embrace both concepts of Living in High Definition (knowing what truly matters in life and living life to honor God) and Living by Blind Faith (trusting God no matter what the possible outcome).  You will find your life richer for having placed blinders over your eyes and your reins in His hands!

1 comment:

Katie said...

Thanks for writing this post Kendra- I have been reading the Hebrews 11 passage through recently too.