Horses, like churches, are very delicate animals. They mostly don’t understand their own strength. When a horse is frightened or is ridden harshly with ignorant domination, it will bolt. Bolting is running mindlessly to try to get away from or out from under whatever the stimulus is.
When a horse is bolting, the rider has two choices- get off the horse or stick on like a burr without pulling on the reins or signaling the horse in any other way. Horses have flight lines. They will eventually slow down and stop. If they are given enough space they will slow down and stop. The flight is, for the moment, over.
When they stop running, there will often be a moment when you can almost see the horse ask itself “Now, what was I running from?” Catching that moment to do some small relationship building or re-connecting is the key to making the horse and the rider better partners. This gentle action, maybe re-introducing the ‘scary’ white grocery bag or care-fully getting back in the saddle reminds both the horse and riders of the beauties of working together. In some ways, community is restored and the ride goes on.
We as pastors and pasture experts can be tough enough to recognize and endure the flight line (and hopefully smart enough to not cause it in the first place!). We also can be wise and subtle enough to recognize and speak into the connecting moment when it occurs. Thankfully, that’s also the place where the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit comes in to give us a holy nudge and the right words to say.
That intervention of Creative Holy Love occurs when we live lives of intentionality with God in God’s fields and vineyards. It occurs when we have been educated by scripture and honed by mission and prayer.
Horses need to have a purpose and a job to do. So do churches. That purpose it what we have called ‘mission’. Really, it is working to transform the world around us into the abundant space where love lives.
People are delicate creatures created to run and work and play and be in relationship. Horses are mirrors that reflect to us that the Love that created the world on unbelievable diversity is calling us home.