Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who's Got the Reins?

One of the most profound stories in the book Little Britches describes how the cowboys taught a horse to be ground tied.  They pegged the horse's reins to the ground just out of reach of water and left the horse there for a few days.  It was torture, but the lesson was never forgotten.  When the reins were down, the horse knew not to move.  This method is not used today as far as I can tell.

The reins guide the horse with the slightest of pressure.  The reins give the owner a lot of control.  This idea was used in the Bible to describe the relationship that God has with his followers.  God holds the reins and directs us with the slightest of movements.

"I the Lord search the heartI try the reins, even to give every man according to his waysand according to the fruit of his doings." (Jer 17:10)

How does God check our hearts?  He uses the reins to see if we will obey when we hear His whisper. It is a reality check not a guess.

My baby climbs.  He gets into things that he shouldn't and often spills liquid intentionally.  If I say "no" to him, he looks at me but he doesn't respond.  He probably understands the word just by the tone and manner that I say it but his heart hasn't been trained yet.

When God warns me, I should do more than just look at Him.  My heart recognizes His voice.  Unlike the baby, I have been trained.

The Bible says that God gave Jezebel "space to repent."  Her disregard for Him led to a heavy punishment.  It says that God will judge the works each one of us has done.  Our works will be judged by how we responded to the reins.  Our reward will be given at the judgement day. (Rev 2:20-23)

So what happens when we drift away from God?  Who has the reins then?  Well, God allows us to be driven as chaff or to be tossed as a ship without a sail or anchor.  He lets us experience life without the reins.

"For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.

"They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.

"But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they."  (Mor 5:16-18)

Unlike a horse, we choose who has the reins.  Each one of our choices gives the reins to whichever of our desires is strongest.

Have you ever felt tossed or directionless?  This feeling is the means by which we recognize the means by which we are steered.  Without guidance from the reins we are helpless and hapless.  With God in control of them, we are free in the sense that we are enabled to be our best.  Just like a kite flies highest with the help of tension in the string.

"Oh thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires."  Isa. 54:11

The journey begins when God is again at the reins.  And when He drops the reins we know to stay put even if we don't know what we are waiting for.  As Wendell Berry puts it, "by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought." (Berry, Standing By Words)

Trust Him to Guide You.

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Image credit:  "Hunt bridle head" by Thowra_uk - Arabian head. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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