Recently as my husband and I watched a movie that included scenes of the western United States where wild horses (mustangs) charged freely across the plains. Such scenes have populated movies for many years and captured the imagination and the bond that seems to have existed between men and horses from the very beginning. Over and over such scenes have shown us horses desiring to be free and have their own way and men seeking to tame them.
Over the course of history horses have had many uses such as transportation, war, food, companionship, work, and sport. Domesticating horses was one of the most important discoveries by early societies, changing the dynamic of civilization. Because of horses, people could travel farther than they ever had before, reach new lands, and carry large sums of supplies.
With the domestication of horses humans could hunt like never before, with speed and endurance. People could ride long distances, carrying and trading goods from all diverse places. And owning horses, became a symbol of prestige and importance.
Horses are very social animals which may help explain the bond that has formed between them and humankind. They have a strong relationship with others and scenes of wild horses together give us glimpses of that. These fascinating creations are also highly intelligent and serve well in many areas of need including work as a means of therapy for those who need such help. We see various aspects of these things in movies where a horse is the main character such as Secretariat, War Horse, The Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, and more.
And who among us as believers are not fascinated by biblical scenes of the return of Christ to earth riding on a white horse in league with thousands of others for the final battle to rid the earth of evil? And no one can forget the scenes of the magnificent Shadowfax with Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.
Wild horses are beautiful, but their potential isn’t unleashed until they have been trained using the bit and bridle, and reins. It’s the combination of the bit, bridle, and reins that function together to give the rider control of the horse’s head. The bit applies pressure to the horse’s mouth and reinforces the other control signals from the rider’s legs and weight distribution. A well-schooled horse needs little pressure on the bit from a skilled rider. This allows the horse to become a useful companion for anything the rider needs done as the discipline and capacity of the horse together provide a powerful team.
Perhaps there is a parallel for us in this. We come to earth as helpless, beautiful (at least to our mothers) babies, wild and untamed in many ways, marked by the DNA of the original fall in Eden. The results are an inborn desire to have our own way from the very beginning (not unlike the wild mustang). If we are blessed with wise and committed parents, the taming and training will begin in infancy and continue throughout our childhood. We, like our horses, will often buck against the training, preferring to have our head and allowing our heart to run wild and free.
When God pursues our hearts, minds, and spirits (no matter what our age), we are much like the wild mustang. We like our wild ways unless they have produced too many painful consequences and even then, we may not be eager to give them up. We may want to respond to Him, but it will usually not happen all at once. Much like a skilled horse whisperer, God will come closer and closer until we risk trusting Him. It will take time for us and the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit to allow Him to put a bit, bridle, and reins on us so we can be disciplined and made useful for his purposes. And even then, when we accept the bit, bridle, and reins, we will not easily adapt to the sense of the weight of Him on us to move as He desires. More than once we will be tempted to try to go our own way or break free from the devices He has created to bring us alongside Him and make us useful to Him and for his kingdom.
If we are honest, we know we need the bit, bridle, and reins to become the best person we can be. We need the reining in of the Holy Spirit with our tongues, thoughts, and choices to not only be useful but also to avoid some of the most horrific and painful consequences we can experience without Him.
We are called to follow Christ and only when the best horse whisperer (Holy Spirit) has trained us and shown us how much we can trust Him, will we be able to follow Him no matter what life throws at us.
We are living at a time when humankind wants to throw off every restraint and do whatever seems right in their own eyes and as we see the results of that, we watch strong cultures falter and erode, law, order, and safety disappear. Even though we are surrounded with knowledge available to us at unprecedented levels, it reminds us that we need the bit, bridle, and reins God gives through his Holy Spirit or surely, we will bring destruction on ourselves and those around us.