Giving My Heart to the Lord, Every Last Bit (Literally)
By CBM National Intern, Ryanne Stout–
We are almost finished with the summer at Camp Victory, with our last of 9 weeks camp weeks taking place now. I find myself wearing many different hats during a week of camp, like most of the full-time staff and summer staff. Some of my various jobs are: Breakfast Assistant, Evening Laundry Folder, Snow Cone Maker, and Assistant to the Techie (mostly making coffee, taking pictures, and changing batteries in the microphones). The hat I wear the most, which happens to be my favorite, is.Horse Lady. I get to feed, groom, and train the 11 horses. Most days, I even enjoy cleaning saddles and horse blankets. I have loved spending time learning from Mr. Steve and Mrs. Barbara Shertzer about their experiences running the horse program here.
I have learned as much from the horses as I have from the Shertzers (which is a lot). I’ve spent time getting to know the horses and what makes them tick. Some are easier to get to know than others. Lady wants to be the center of attention where Sugar wants to be acknowledged but not touched. Jake has allergy problems and Albert is afraid of toads. I’ve been reading a book about how a herd of horses works and it has been interesting to see it happening before my eyes. A herd has two leaders. One is a male, the protector, and the other is a female, the leader. Diamond is our protector. He is a huge paint horse and the number one position in the herd. Sugar is our leader. She is the one who decides where the herd grazes at any given time and when they move. The herd works in unity under their two leaders. During my time with the horses, I also have learned a lot about the Lord and how He works. I love how God uses them to reveal Himself to me.
There have been two horses I have spent serious time with in the time I have been here. The first is Lilly. Lilly is a white mare with an adorable pink spot on her nose and a love for rolling in red dirt, which leaves her looking like she’s dyed her mane and tail. I worked with Lilly for the first three weeks of camp until she was ready to be ridden by campers. Lilly has one major issue. She listens really well at first, but as the day goes on she starts to feel like she isn’t getting what she deserves for listening (usually snacks of the leaf variety) and she becomes spiteful. The problem is that she won’t give her heart. As I kept working with her I started to see how the problem escalates:
The more I saw this process play out in my horse, the easier it was to see it in my life. I found that in areas where I was doing the right thing with the wrong attitude I eventually grew resentful and belligerent. God has to teach me how to change my heart in these areas. I am a people pleaser, so for me, obeying with the wrong attitude happens more than I’d like to admit. God wants me to obey Him and the authority that He has placed above me, but for the right reasons. He wants me to give Him my heart and trust Him with the outcome. Sometimes that looks like praying and asking for Him to change the way I feel or think about something. The more I surrender my attitudes to Him, the more I realize that I need His help to have the right attitude. I need Him to change me. Lilly still hasn’t given me her heart completely yet, but I’m working on her just like the Lord is working on me.
The horse that I’m working with now is Lady Liberty. She was born on the fourth of July which is why she has such a patriotic name, but we just call her Lady. Lady is young and doesn’t like to stand still. She can be a lot to handle which is why she’s not a camper horse for the moment, but she is getting close. Around the time I started working with her, Lady started to have a problem taking a bit. I have been told that she didn’t have that problem in the past but the more I rode her, the worse it became. For those of you who don’t know, a bit is the metal piece of the bridle that goes into the horse’s mouth and gives the rider the ability to direct the horse. Horses don’t like pressure so when the bit puts pressure in their mouth they move away from it. So I started trying to figure out what the issue was. One of my personal goals for the summer is to have all of the horses opening their mouths for their bits without a fight, which had been going well until the issue with Lady. I started spending time with her, intentionally working on getting her to take a bit.
I started working Lady in the round pin to see if that would help work out the problem. Working a horse in a round pin involves making a horse move the way you tell them to until they submit to your leadership. The reason this works is because of the way the herd functions. As the rider, I want to take a place of leadership in the life of my horse. When I put pressure on the horse to make it move and they respond correctly, I’m showing authority. Each horse in the herd has a place in the pecking order and moves the horses under them to show their authority. As I run the horse I’m working with in the round pin, I’m looking for them to turn their ears toward me to show that they’re listening, relax their mouths by licking their lips and chewing, and drop their head almost to the ground to show submission. When I get those three things from my horse, I take the pressure away by turning around, dropping my rope, and looking at the ground. If the horse walks to me then they have chosen me as a leader.
I want a horse I am working with to choose to trust me in the round pin because that trust carries into other areas. When Lady chooses me as her leader, she is more willing to trust me when I’m riding her. I want my leadership in her life to be her choice. If she doesn’t willingly submit to my leadership, then the responses that I get from her will be more like Lilly’s, which are out of force or obligation. In the same way, God wants us to choose to trust Him and to make Him our Leader. The more we do it, the easier it becomes to trust Him in every situation.
Lady was doing everything right until I started to put her bridle on. Whenever she fought the bit, I would put the pressure back on and start running her again. I kept telling her that the bit that she didn’t want to take was part of following me. She would do anything but take the bit. She even would stick her head through the reigns when I held them up for her. She would do anything that I asked except take the bit. She was telling me, “Yes, I’ll let you lead me. Yes, I will follow you. Yes I’ll do whatever you ask, just don’t ask me to take a bit.”
I round pinned her for about an hour and a half that day. I kept asking her to trust me enough to do the one thing she didn’t want to do. At some point I found myself praying. I started to ask God to show me the things that I am not trusting Him with like Lady wasn’t trusting me with the bit. I know that like Lady, it’s going to take the pressure of some tough situations to make me realize that I need to give those areas over to God.
It really comes down to trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (HCSB). I don’t always understand why God asks me to give up certain things, but He is trustworthy. I can count on Him to be working towards good in my life. Lady takes her bit much better now than she did in those first days. It has taken a lot of time and work to get her to trust me in that area, but the more I work with her, the more she is willing to trust me as her leader. She keeps giving me more and more of her heart. I hope that I can be trustworthy to her, as the Lord is to me. My desire is to give my whole heart over to Him, every little bit (literally).