No Bit or Bridle Required

Psalm 32:8–9 (ESV)
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

I like horses. I like riding them and watching them out in the pasture. I just like being around them. But I haven’t always had the best experience with them and I’ll relate one story to help make my point.
I inherited my fondness for livestock from my maternal grandfather. As far back as I can remember he had at least one horse but the ones I remember best were his Appaloosas, Jewel and Dusty. I love the exotic patterns and colors of the Appaloosa so I decided to buy one. My grandfather offered to help me, but I felt I was smart enough to not need any help finding a horse so I searched on my own. I spotted an advertisement for an Appaloosa at a local farm and drove out to take a look at it. The horse that was for sale didn’t look much like an Appaloosa; it had classic buckskin coloring right down to the dark stockings on all four legs. It did, however, have one tiny dark spot on its rump. The guy who was selling it had some beautiful Appaloosas in his back pasture so I believed him when he said that the horse was still young and would “color up” as he got older. Did I mention that I wanted a colt instead of a well-seasoned, mature horse? Felling confident in my abilities as a horse trader, I bought the horse and brought him home.
When the horse was about 18 months old I decided it was time to find a trainer. A couple of people offered suggestions, but I felt I was smart enough to not need any help finding a trainer so I searched on my own. I visited one guy who seemed to know what he was doing and had successfully trained a couple of horses for a friend of mine (one being a wild mustang that she adopted through the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse Adoption Program) but I rejected him because he exposed my limited knowledge about horses. I chose another trainer instead, who kept my horse for over six months and basically did nothing but take my money. Did I mention that the horse, now almost two years old, still had not “colored up?” After throwing away several hundred dollars a month for six months I decided it was time to cut my losses and bring the horse home. By now I felt I was smart enough to not need any help training the horse. I would just buy a book and do it on my own.
To make a long story short, I kept the horse for several years because I liked looking at him in the pasture. I didn’t ride him much because my training efforts were less than successful. I finally sold the horse to a man who had some experience and felt he could do something with him.
That experience taught me a lot about horses – and myself. Did I mention that I have never owned another horse and have a real nice, very unused saddle for sale?
I learned that horses are complex creatures that require a lot of skill and attention to handle properly. I also learned that horses do not appear on this earth ready to ride and it takes more than reading a book to successfully train one. It takes a lot of time, patience, effort and experience working beside someone who already knows what he’s doing. I learned that the reason horses need to be trained is because they don’t know and don’t care what it is that you want them to do. And when you try to teach they naturally rebel.
I also learned that I’m not much different from that horse. I had people all along the way who were willing to help me and give me advice but I rebelled against their advice because I took it as an insult to my miniscule knowledge and experience.
This passage is such a perfect picture of the stubborn heart wanting to go its own way. We can certainly count on God to lead us correctly because he not only knows the future, he makes it. Doesn’t it seem logical to let him guide us in the right direction rather than thinking we can do better ourselves?

Father, thank you for being willing to guide me in the way I should go. Help me to be willing to follow.

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