Wednesday, September 8, 2010


When I climbed into the saddle for the first time in over forty years at Deer Valley Ranch a few weeks ago, I felt confident and secure. Until the wrangler who sounded like his voice had barely finished changing told me what I was doing wrong. “Don’t let Buttons eat. She’s supposed to be working. If she tries that again, jerk her reins straight up, to make her uncomfortable.” I failed to tell him it was too late—while he was saddling the other fourteen riders, Buttons had stripped half the hillside of grass.

During the hour-long ride, another wrangler barely out of diapers used me as an example of what not to do. “Buttons is thrashing her head around because she’s agitated. You need to pull the reins back toward your belly, not straight up into the air.”

I whined, “But the other boy, I mean man, told me to jerk it up, so she wouldn’t keep eating!”

“Yes, she likes to eat. But you need to show her you’re in charge, or she’ll take advantage of you.”

Now I was as confused as a pogo stick at a triathlon. Jerk the reins up to keep your horse from eating; jerk the reins back to keep your horse from getting agitated. I wanted to jerk the person who gave this hungry, ornery horse to wimpy me.

I never did excel at discipline. One day I let my kids eat Lucky Charms, skip their baths, and stay up ‘til ten. The next day I’m yelling, “We eat too much junk around here; Have this carrot stick and like it. Is that dirt I see behind your ears? Baths twice a day from now on. You have dark circles under your eyes; bedtime is now 7 p.m. until you go to college!” My Who’s in Charge Meter kept changing its mind. I couldn’t seem to strike a decent balance between allowing the kids to be kids and setting healthy boundaries. Riding Buttons was a thorny reminder of my inability to take charge without being a dictator.

Although the stinging sensation in my eyes threatened to turn to tears, I joked that riding Buttons was like trying to get a two-year old to co-operate. Everyone laughed, and I snuffled the tears away. Then later that evening on my way back to the cabin, the Lord surprised me with a prickly thought.

“You think Buttons was hard to manage today, Jeanette? She reminds me of you. Always champing at the bit to eat when I need you to work, trying to lead Me rather than following. Yet I continue to be patient with you, gently guiding you with My spirit. I will never give up on you, My child.”

Wow. No wonder He’s God and I’m not. While I’m ready to pitch a plan, a project, or even a person because I’m impatient with things not going the right way—which usually means MY way—the Lord is barely tapping into His storehouse of longsuffering.

Just like me with Buttons, He needs to jerk the reins repeatedly to keep me focused on His purpose for me. The major difference is, He doesn’t get discouraged after 100 jerks. He doesn’t cry in frustration when I won’t listen to Him. His mercies are new every morning, and His love never fails. His investment in me is eternal. So, He’s willing to wait until I finally “get it,” and obey His lead.

I’m not there yet. I still need more jerks on my reins than I’d like. You, too?

But let’s not get discouraged that we aren’t learning as quickly as we’d like. Instead, let’s rejoice that God never gives up on us. And let’s pray that we’ll learn to obey better than Buttons.