Lightning was a rescue horse.
She had a stubborn streak that went deep and gave her fortitude to not budge an inch while standing on my toes … despite me pushing and heaving my shoulder into her side to get her to release my boot from under her hoof.
You see, her stubbornness was surpassed by her intelligence. She knew exactly what she was doing by nonchalantly blinking in the sunshine, pretending to ignore the fact that she was crushing my vulnerable feet. She was definitely the one in charge, and training the trainer… this whole ‘training a green horse’ thing was not off to a good start for me.
And then there was her fear, which surpassed all of her other great quality traits. The sight of anything flapping in the wind would cause her to jump and bolt as if being chased by a pack of wolves…
But the fading scars etched into her bony frame gave me pause to not get upset at her for her varying degrees of faults.
I had the joy of getting to know this memorable horse a few summers back, when I worked at a Christian dude ranch in Colorado.
Needless to say, Lightning wasn’t allowed to have dude guests ride her, thanks to the above-mentioned safety concerns. But I occasionally got to clamber atop this tall and spirited horse, praying for dear life that nothing around me would flap, clank or sneeze!
But as fate would have it, along came a little boy who fell in love with Lightning at first sight. I questioned his choice of horse, considering we had many other fabulous and beautiful steeds, and I thought Lightning was a rather ugly horse. But he saw something in her that I could not.
So one afternoon we arranged for this boy to pet Lightning while she stood at a hitching post eating a bowl full of grain.
I watched amazed (and a tad jealous) as this horse that was so rude and careless toward me, turned into a gentle and sweet mare around this boy. She gave quiet nickers of thanks as she carefully nibbled grass from his hands, in between happily gulping down and drooling large mouthfuls of her grain.
And then I got choked up as I heard this boy whisper to Lightning, while gently stroking her scarred nose- “You are such a beautiful horse, Lightning. I love you so much. You’re my favorite horse in all the world.”
I hardly dared to breathe, not wanting to interrupt this pure joy and affection. It was in that moment I felt like I got a glimpse of what God’s love toward us is like.
At every turn, life lies to us that we are ugly because of our failures, or that there is something wrong with us because of the wounds that leave deep scars. And it’s easy for me to respond toward God and other people out of fear or pain or both.
And yet God sees us in all of these things and loves us deeply. He whispers to His children with so much love in His voice-
“You are altogether beautiful, my love” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“I will… transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope” (Hosea 2:15)
And even if you are rejecting God because of your pain, He still says- “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Which voice are we going to listen to today?
Will we let our hurt and loss define us and motivate our actions and responses?
Or will we be defined by God’s healing Love that flows into the deepest part of our pain and promises to never leave us?
“Surely he [Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6