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Horses are mirrors…and more

The world doesn’t need more mirrors. In fact, most of our cell phones are used as mirrors in our culture as selfies abound and places to share these snapshots as we self-promote our own celebrity status are easy to find. Horses, indeed all of God’s creation, can start off as mirrors to show us who we are. They can point to current emotions that perhaps we don’t even realize we are having. But mirrors are not enough.

The title of this post was inspired by one of my academic and pastoral examples, Dr. Bill Arnold. His remarks centered around the church, how it should be a window for the culture, not a mirror of the culture. As I teach clinics and seminars on equine facilitated spiritual formation, I use the line “Horses are mirrors”. Bill’s comments opened a new idea for me: Horses are windows.

What we need, what our world needs are more windows. Windows allow us to see beyond the walls we have built to protect ourselves. There is a holy reality beyond ourselves, beyond what we see in a mirror. Horses show us how to do that everyday as they work so hard to do what ask of them in the context of relationship.

I had a horse years ago that had been treated harshly and she really didn’t like people. Over time, as we worked together, I watched her work so hard to learn not to run away, not to kick out, not to flee or fight. She started off as a mirror. Her fear was palpable. Sometimes it exploded into anger. I never allowed her to hurt herself (or me) and she always had the option to escape. As we worked together, her line of flight got shorter and shorter.

One day, I watched with amazement as she stood totally still while I petted her all over with a white T-shirt, one of the things she hated the most. Her eyes widened as I waved the t-shirt around her face, the whites of her eyes formed rings around the soft, brown dilated orbs. Her eyes looked terrified, but her feet stayed completely still. I knew how hard it was for her.

I knew because I know how hard it is for me. Fear is a huge monster in my life. For me to fight the constant battle of fear, I don’t need a mirror. I don’t need someone to show me how afraid I am and how that fear works out through my life. I know that.

What I need, what God provides for me are windows. Not windows to jump out of but windows that give me a wider view of a better reality. The reality is that I am a child of God, a follower of Jesus, beloved and called to a life of holy love, faithfulness, communion and community.  Though my eyes may be white-ringed with fear and my heart be racing, my feet stand firm. Firmly on the solid rock I stand.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3

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