Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't Let Go of the Reigns

As the horse keeper worked, saddling up the horses, attaching the bridles, and securing a bit into each horses mouth, he occasionally blurted out a short series of instructions to us.  "Stay on the path at all times."   His words seemed stern and cold.  "Keep a safe distance between your horse and the one in front of you."  But yet, his words carried with them a fatherly gentleness that was difficult to understand at the time.

After waiting anxiously for him to complete the task of preparing the horses to be ridden, the horse keeper helped me to mount up onto the horse that had been chosen for me.  Looking me squarely in the eyes as he handed me the reigns, the keeper said, "Whatever you do, don't let go of the reigns!"

Giving me a quick nod with his hat, he moved on to help my brother, Tom,  mount upon the horse he would be riding.  After getting my brother properly positioned into his saddle,  the keeper once again echoed the words, "Whatever you do, don't let go of the reigns!" 

The horse keeper methodically continued down the line, helping each person waiting to mount upon a horse, always ending with the same stern phrase, "Whatever you do, don't let go of the reigns!"

Walking to the front of the line, the horse keeper mounted his own horse, turned to look at us one last time, and then gave a quick kick to the horses side, signaling to the horse that it was time to move.  In succession, each of the other riders did the same, until the horses were each moving steadily behind the horse in front of it.

Tom was directly in front of me, and I could see that his horse had a bit of a stubborn streak.  Coupled with my brother's young age and lack of maturity and experience in horseback riding, the difficult to manage horse was proving to be quite a handful for Tom.  Each time the horse tried to veer off of the path, he would simply try to "shout" it into submission.  However, his shouts were falling onto deaf ears, because the horse didn't seem to notice or care what Tom was shouting.  The horse just continued to do whatever it pleased, relishing in the new found freedom being granted by my poor, helpless, inexperienced brother.

I am not really sure what happened next.  I don't know if Tom just lost his concentration for a moment, or if the quick movement of the horse thrusting it's head down to eat some grass alongside the path was responsible, but the reigns dropped down off of the horses neck, falling near the mouth of the horse.  My brother frantically tried to bend over to reach the reigns, but they were simply out reach of his short, childlike arms.  As the horse started to move slowly to a new section of grass to eat, the reigns which should have been securely in my brother's hands, became caught under one of the horses hooves.  Without any warning, the horse reared up onto it's back legs, gave a loud whinny, and set off fast as lightening with my brother holding on for dear life.  Tom was crying out for help while trying to hold onto the mane of the horse to keep from falling off.

It only took the horse keeper a few seconds to recognize the commotion that was taking place behind him.  He darted over, jumped off of his horse, and lunged at the flinging reigns.  Immediately, after the reigns were securely in the keeper's hand, the horse quieted and seemed unafraid.  He simply thrust his head back down to resume his eating as if nothing had ever happened. 

The horse keeper looked at Tom, still sitting on top of  his horse, obviously shaken by the events that had just occurred, and sternly said to him, "I thought I told you that whatever you do, don't let go of the reigns."

But in the words that followed, the sternness was replaced by a fatherly gentleness, "You could have been killed.  I am so glad you are alright."

As I think back upon that day, watching my brother struggling to grab hold of the reigns of that wild horse, I am freshly reminded of God's care for us as His children and our daily need for Him.  

It was horrifying as a child to watch my brother clinging to that wild horse, starring at the reigns dangling on the ground beneath the horses hooves.  I wish he would have listened, would have clung tightly to them.  The horse keeper's words brought protection, wisdom, "Whatever you do, don't let go of the reigns!" 

I am encouraged...
                           I am stirred...
                                               I am committed...
"Whatever I do, I will not let go of the reigns."

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