By Tom Flaherty
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He waits to show you compassion.” Isaiah 30:15;18
Last week my wife and I went with our missionaries to a horse farm where horses are used to teach spiritual truth. Our director asked all of us to be quiet while we observed her with a horse who was unfamiliar with her. She asked us to imagine her as God, and the horse as us and encouraged us to listen to what the Holy Spirit might teach through the experience.
She was in the middle of a circular pen set up in the arena and had a head set microphone on that allowed us to hear everything she was saying without her having to raise her voice. The horse was then let in with her and she began speaking softly to him, but he was having none of it. He began running around in circles ignoring her, but she kept speaking and never took her eyes off of him.
Once in a while the horse would kick or change direction or even speed up to let her know he resented being locked up in this small space with her. She just kept speaking tenderly and waited for him to tire out. Finally it happened.
All at once the horse stopped, went right to her, and bowed his head, letting her touch him. She told us this was an act of surrender. Now when she spoke and walked around the horse followed her wherever she went.
Here are some of the reflections the team gave:
1. The circular pen was something artificial that she created for the purpose of establishing relationship with the horse. Our circumstances are like the pen. God allows us to feel penned in only for the reason that we might come to Him, surrender, and establish relationship.
2. Even though the horse ignored the director, she never took her eyes off of him and never stopped speaking to him. God’s eye is on us even when we resent our circumstances and kick and snort to communicate our unhappiness to Him. What does He do? As the text above reads, “He waits to show you compassion.”
3. No matter how fast the horse went in circles it wasn’t going anywhere. We think our strength is in activity but there can be a lot of activity with no progress. Just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we’re actually going anywhere.
4. Horses were created to be ridden in the beautiful outdoors, not stuck in a pen. God wants to “ride us” or have an intimate relationship where we become one with Him. The sooner we embrace this purpose, the sooner the adventure of where He will take us will begin.
5. It was amazing how quickly everything changed when the horse decided to surrender. It stopped on a dime, went to the middle, and decided to submit instead of fight. All the prodigal had to do was come home. All we need to do is repent and rest in Him. He’s waiting for us to get tired of doing it on our own, so we will return and He can have compassion on us.
Tom Flaherty is the Lead Pastor of City Church in Madison, WI.