The Hoof Print
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The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
Loving Thy Enemies Featured
Sometimes, the hardest person to love isn't your arch enemy.
When someone is really causing you pain, they're easy to focus on – too easy, sometimes. They're right there in your face, demanding your attention; you concentrate on them and think your problem through so that you reach the path of love and forgiveness. It's not always easy to do, but it's not easily forgotten, either.
But there are other enemies that slip your mind as soon as you turn your back. Enemies that cause only irritation, not pain. Enemies responsible only for hot flashes of anger, not abiding and seething fury. But these need love and forgiveness just as much as anyone else does: just as much as you do.
God has taught me some of His greatest lessons through horses. The latest is a particularly stubborn young horse with whom I do not get along. The reason why is difficult to explain; it's not a bad horse, and we have made quite some progress with its training, but I just don't like it. It's a simple personality clash, but that doesn't give me any excuses. No – I have to love that annoying little horse just as much as all the others, or what kind of a person am I? Even the worst sinners love those who love them. It's loving those who hate us that means we really love (Matthew 5:46).
So I gritted my teeth and plugged on, building a partnership with this horse and swallowing my annoyance when it did something random apparently just to irritate me, but I knew I didn't like it. I didn't like the way it looked, acted or carried itself and I couldn't make myself do it. I was starting to get annoyed with myself for not being able to love the little horse when one evening at feeding time the poor horse was not looking well at all. It wasn't hungry, it didn't want to get up, and once it did get up it just stood with its head hanging and agony in its eyes.
I nursed it most of the evening, giving it medicine, monitoring its vitals, walking it up and down to see if we could get its stomach moving. I knew what it had and it didn't make me happy; colic can turn nasty in moments, and you might never know what you're dealing with until it's too late. I could do what I would, but as usual, it was not in my hands.
So I wrapped my arms around the horse's neck and buried my face in its fragrant mane and prayed, “Lord, please make this little horse better.”
And in my heart, a light went on as I realised that I was not afraid of what the horse's owner would say if I lost it; I was not afraid of what would happen to my reputation as horse trainer if I lost it; I was not afraid of the financial implications if I lost it. I was afraid to lose the horse because, much as I disliked it, I loved it.
Lord Jesus was just teaching me something. Less than an hour later, the horse looked fine again, its stomach was back to work and its vitals were normal. I was riding it again less than twenty-four hours later and it annoyed me half to death, as usual. But this time I could just push the annoyance aside, grit my teeth and keep working without worry.
You see, God just showed me that you don't have to like somebody to love them. You don't have to feel attracted to them or see something good in them to love them. You don't even have to feel a warm emotion when you think about them. All you have to do is make a conscious, determined decision to love them and the Lord will do the rest.
Love's not an emotion. Love is a glorious duty, and one which we can do – which we will do – no matter what the implications, no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the price. Because we have been given this perfect and amazing commandment by the One Who is love, by the One Who loves the most mightily and eternally of all (Matthew 22:36-40).
Last weekend, I took one of my favourite horses in the universe to a jumping lesson off-site. She is a young horse and conditions were not ideal, but she was amazing. Sure, she threw a little buck here and there out of purest excitement, but she jumped everything we put in front of her and tried her heart out. There were several moments in which she was afraid, but I was there with a determined voice in her ear and a firm leg against her side and no hesitation, so she went for me. There were several moments in which I was afraid, but she was there with a powerful thrust of her hindlegs and a forward set of her ears, so I went with her. Our partnership, from the outside, looks unremarkable; just a little grey mare obeying her rider. But on the inside, we are more than partners, we are friends, there for each other, rooting for each other, and working together to achieve our common goal. I may not fall on her neck kissing her each time she pleases me, and she may not neigh joyously at the very sight of me, but we love one another with a quiet constance. It is a strange and unlikely relationship, this mutual respect between man and beast, but one that I treasure.
How strange we are, us humans. We love, with an abiding passion, a half-ton animal that cannot speak; something with four legs and monocular vision. Yet at the same time, we fear and hate members of our own kind if they look a little different. History is pock-marked and scarred by dark deeds done in fear and hatred of those who happened not to be the right skin colour, the right gender, or the right origin; people who didn't look or act or speak like other people who happened to be stronger than them. Civil wars have been raged, concentration camps filled, apartheid declared. And while in many places, many people have made many huge differences, the old hatred of all that is different lingers on.
I am a South African. Born three years after our fondly-nicknamed Madiba and F. W. de Klerk put an end to apartheid, I should know it only as history. Yet one can walk anywhere in South Africa and realise that apartheid still smoulders in hearts and minds all over our country, remaining in an old wound called racism. And with every government survey demanding that you fill in your race (where is the box marked “Human”?), every angry glance thrown across the street, every car window nervously rolled up as the “wrong” kind of person goes past, that old wound's healing slows.
And yet we, the same people who shake their fists, spit as they cross the road, or hug their purses and children nearer at the sight of others, we will walk up to a huge and dangerous animal that doesn't speak any human language, mount up and trust it with our lives.
So if we can love a beast that could kill us in a breath, we can love those who we have warred with in the past. If we can love a creature with a furry coat, we can love those with a different skin colour. If we can love an animal that has no speech, we can love those who speak a different language. If we can love a herd animal that functions in a society we barely understand, we can love the people who have different cultures to us.
In short, brothers and sisters, if we can love the horse, then we can love one another. We are not so different after all. We are all human (Acts 17:26). Let us celebrate the amazing diversity of God's creation and accept what He has so fearfully and wonderfully made. The world is truly divided with only one line; God's children, and the lost; and we as God's children are called to love everybody. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Glory to the King.