“There’s a way to train a horse where when you get done you’ve got the horse. On his own ground. A good horse will figure things out on his own. You can see what’s in his heart. He wont do one thing while you’re watching him and another when you aint. He’s all of a piece. When you’ve got a horse to that place you cant hardly get him to do somethin he knows is wrong. He’ll fight you over it. And if you mistreat him it just about kills him. A good horse has justice in his heart.” – (Cormac McCarthy, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28 – 30)
I’ve had the good luck through the years of occasionally observing truly gifted horse trainers as they practice their craft. None of the good ones like being called “horse whisperers” because they consider that to be both misleading and arrogant. Most are incredibly humble, and just claim to be simple cowboys. But they have a way of communicating with a horse — soft when they can be, and firm when they need to be — that allows the horse to become a partner rather than a servant. Properly trained, a horse will try to do almost anything for his rider because he has learned to trust the relationship with him.
As I read through the New Testament I notice that Jesus occasionally has harsh things to say, but the ultimate goal seems to always be about relationships rather than reward and punishment. In what is perhaps the greatest of his parables, the father of the prodigal son is so overcome with joy at the return of his son that he doesn’t even seem to hear the son’s confession; he offers no words of forgiveness, but simply initiates the celebration (Luke 15). It is a remarkable story. The intention of Jesus is clear: God merely wants us to come home.
In Matthew Jesus talks about the relationship he wants with us, and there is no doubt that he expects to be the leader. But he promises that he will be “humble and gentle,” and that in following him we will find rest for our souls. Jesus taught that when we are in partnership with him we don’t have to wait for the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is a present reality. Maybe those of us who are “weary and heavy-burdened” (count me in that group!) need to spend more time listening to him and less time listening to the clamor of the world around us.
Rev. Don Underwood