Monday, September 30, 2013

When You Just Want to Be on Your Own and the Pursuit of the Father~lessons from horse camp

It was a late Friday night, just before sunset, and I was sitting outside the round pen on top of a hill, at Above the Sun Ranch with 5 teenagers.  It was the first ever Christian horse camp for older teens.  We looked on as Amy prepared to begin a training session with Bailey, a young and new horse on the farm. Amy explained that she would start by running Bailey around the outside rail and when she stopped running her, the goal and desire was for Bailey to enter the center of the circle where Amy was standing.  She explained that she was trying to win Bailey's trust.  Bailey's willingness to enter the center would be a sign of submission, an outward sign that she wanted to be led by Amy.

The training session started.  Amy asked her to run by clicking her mouth and using a rope that she would periodically move toward Bailey. All the while, Amy ran by her side, patiently, lovingly, and mightily, pursuing her. With wide eyes and restless twitches, Bailey ran and ran and ran some more.  I was thinking, um Amy, I think that's enough. But only the leader, the one doing the training, gets to make that decision.

And so it is with God.  Only He knows how to pursue us perfectly.  Others can tell us about Him, proclaim who He is, what He's done, what He promises to do.  But only He opens hearts.  

The first time Amy stopped running Bailey, she quickly entered the center with Amy. I was like, Wow, I could totally be a horse trainer.  That was easy.  And then Amy said, "Let's see if she means it."  So, Amy started walking around the pen, and it wasn't long until Bailey was doing her own thing, looking around, distracted by the littlest thing.  Amy said, "Nope, that won't do.  I need her to stick right with me," and immediately put her back on the rail.

As she ran, Amy explained to us that she makes the right thing a pleasant experience for Bailey and the wrong thing a hard experience.

And so it is with us and God.  When we come to Him and allow Him to lead us, we experience a deep peace that we don't understand.  Often in our walk with God, the outward circumstances aren't pleasant or easy, but knowing Him and resting in Him is.  He is jealous for us and knows how we need Him.  A partial, half-hearted following will not do.

Amy explained that she was looking for signs that Bailey was starting to acknowledge her.  Signs that were unrecognizable to the rest of us.  She was looking for one ear to be on her at all times.  How many times had my God asked me to listen to Him, to listen for His voice above the crowd?  She was looking for a bowed head that reflected submission to her leadership.  How many times had God beckoned me to fall to my knees in surrender and rest?

As I watched Bailey run the rail, I could see myself in that horse.  How many times had I run and run and run some more, at times, wanting to be free and at others, clinging to the safety of the rail. All the while, my Father loving pursued.  After watching Bailey run the rail several times, I wanted to scream at her, "STOP RUNNING! for Pete's sake.  Aren't you tired?!"  Don't you see her, standing in the center of the ring, the one who will love you and feed you and care for you?!"
How many times had I run away from the One my heart desperately wanted and needed?  How many times had I pulled away from God and from others, thinking I knew best.  But God didn't create us to run on our own. He created us to be in relationship with Him and with His other children.

About half way through the training session, Bailey was clearly distracted by a piece of equipment and then some of the girls.  I couldn't help but think of how many times God stood in the center, watching me, while I turned to other things, other gods. How he lovingly looked on, while I piddled away with created things, rather than looking to my Creator.

As Bailey ran the rail again, Amy explained to us that she sees the potential this young horse has.  The rest of us didn't see it, but she does. It's why she chose her.  She knows her bloodlines.

And so it is with us.  God sees our bloodline.  He sees Jesus' perfection when He looks upon us.  He knows how He wants to be in relationship with us and allow our lives to reflect His glory, which results in our deepest satisfaction, our joy.  But, if we're running the rail, whether it's to be free or safe-both a sign of wanting our own independence-we can't be in a right relationship with Him.  

I listened to the girls as we sat around the campfire later that evening.  Their words showed that God had spoken through Amy's words during the training session. I watched the flames of fire flicker on their faces as they shared how hard it is sometimes to want God over other things.  Oh, how I knew what they were saying.  Sometimes those here and now things-those relationships, those experiences- look so good, so promising.   We were able to discuss how people will fail us, but God-He never disappoints. I think each of us could see herself in that young horse, ripping around the ring at breakneck speed.

I am so thankful for the way God pursues us even when we don't know we want to be pursued. Just as Bailey was purchased and brought from far off,  we too, are brought near by God.  We could never get ourselves into His presence if not for His grace in drawing us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As His daughters, when we want to run or hide, He draws near. He places people in our lives to teach us about Him, so we can know Him and love Him.  Knowing Him is loving Him.

Praying for these 5 young girls that God will relentlessly pursue each of them until they're willingly walking by His side, running hard after Him.