I was tired of the pandemic. I was tired of the isolation. I was tired of being indoors and stuck at home, so I was looking for an escape, a way to get outdoors with a COVID safe activity. I had been doing lots of walking and hiking, but I wanted something new and fun, an adventure. And then I saw the signs posted around town offering horseback riding lessons. Initially, I went to the riding barn to inquire about lessons for my young granddaughters. This barn had all kinds of horses: from ponies to quarter horses, and offered a variety of lessons: from English to Western Pleasure and much more. Although my daughters were hesitant to enroll their young daughters in lessons, I saw women my age taking lessons. So, I quickly signed up and joined the riding club. I was thrilled beyond words and excited.
I had grown up with horses. And from my early childhood days through college, they encompassed a great deal of my passion, time, and life. Just being around this barn brought back fond childhood memories with my quarter horse, named Irish, palomino, named Sheba, and our temperamental Shetland pony, named Fred. There is just something about horses with their powerful, majestic, and beautiful bodies that captivates my soul. To this day, I love the smell of a barn and rubbing the muzzle of these majestic creatures or currying their furry coats and brushing out their manes and tails.
When I announced my plans to start riding again to my husband and friends, they were shocked and leery. My husband said, “But what if you fall off? What if you get hurt? What about your back and hip problems?” Two years earlier, I sustained a back injury and had to have hip surgery. And I still saw a doctor regularly for steroid injections to function normally and pain-free. I was angered at my husband’s cautionary words and fearful reaction. I assured him I knew what I was doing. I even proclaimed that I had never fallen off a horse before and I was taking lessons and working with a trainer to be safe.
The first four months were filled with delight as I learned to simply ride, cue, and work with my horse named, Satie. She responded with the touch of my heel, a shift in the saddle or a gentle tug on the reins. Satie was a well-trained Western Pleasure horse, and we worked our easy paces in the covered outdoor arena. No fast paces. No jumping, cantering, and galloping. I was safe and planning to enter amateur competitions the following spring.
Then one fateful day in November, a loud truck with hyper-sounding mufflers pulled up to the barn. Satie freaked; she reared, bucked, and took off running. I could not rein her in, nor hold onto to this frightened and powerful animal. My fall from the horse led to an ambulance ride to the hospital where I was admitted for a week with a fractured sacrum, bruised ribs, and lung contusions. I was seriously injured. Now four months later, I am still recovering and trying to regain the somewhat normal life I had before the accident. Just walking now can be excruciating some days as I wait for the injury to fully heal.
My husband tried to warn me. My family offered caution. My friends were sure this new activity was not wise. In my pride though, I disregarded all words of sound wisdom. And in my pride, I fell. I am still paying the price for my willful choice. “Pride goes before a fall.” I experienced that literally. In my haste and zeal to ride horses again, I did not yield to any cautionary advice.
How often scripture warns us to put God first, to surrender our lives to Him, to trust that He knows best. Not that riding horses is wrong or bad, but you see I have had 16 surgeries in my life and numerous procedures with quite a few related to athletic endeavors. I am also no longer young and as resilient. As one wise friend said, “When we fall now, we don’t bounce, we break.” My body can no longer sustain injuries, surgeries, and procedures. I am at a stage that I have had to accept limitations: no more running, no more snow skiing, no more intense Zumba, or intense athletic training, as my body cannot handle the strains placed upon it by these activities.
We all can have a way of thinking we know what is best. We can ignore God’s Word, truth, and guidelines in scripture. We can scorn the cautious words of others. We can overlook the wise council of friends. We can disregard the directives of a physician, an advisor, a counselor, or any number of people. And when we fall into problems or sin and tumble in our pride, the results are painful to our soul and sometimes literally to our bodies. Oftentimes the choices we foolishly make can be costly to others who pay the price as well—like my expensive medical bills my husband incurred from my injury.
As one wise priest so eloquently said, “Our fallen human nature tends toward pride, self-sufficiency, control, and dominance. To resist that tendency requires courage. It takes courage to obey the truth and expose oneself to the burning love of God.” John Bartunek.
In God’s burning love, He used others to try to warn me. In my willful nature and pride, I ignored all caution. I was bent on pursuing a sport I had once loved with these majestic, but dangerous creatures. Not that God caused the accident, but He knew what was best for me in this season of life. And horseback riding was not one of them.
Satie, it turns out, was a well-trained horse. But she had one major flaw: she is skittish and fearful. She is no longer at the training barn, but then neither am I. The real Satie lesson I learned is to stop and pray before wholeheartedly jumping on to or into something new. Before saddling up with my plans and riding off in careless pursuit of what I think will bring me life, I am learning to be prudent. I have had to rein in my impulses. I have learned to listen to the wisdom of others and yield my prideful will to God’s plans.
It has been a painful lesson: literally. I have surrendered to God’s goodness and trust that one day I will ride again and even compete in those amateur shows. I will have my own barn and arena once again filled with a variety of horses. Just not on this side of eternity. I have all of Heaven ahead to ride to my heart’s content, without the risk of falling and injury.
What about you? What painful lessons can you avoid, if you but listen to the wisdom of godly council, or yield to God’s Word, or pray about God’s better plan? Do not go racing off in self-willed decisions without submitting yourself to wise council. Or you just might join me in my fall from a horse lesson named pride!
Ever since the Fall I know you struggle, like Eve did, to trust that I know what is best for you. I know how impulsive you can be at times. Can you trust Me enough to first seek My heart and plans for you? Can you trust Me enough to first pray, but then yield your will over to My good intentions for you? You are like a wild horse, at times simply running off in pursuit of the things you perceive will bring you life. But will you allow Me to rein you in? Will you allow Me to guide you with My harness, bit, and reins, to steer you into the good pastures I have for you? I never intend harm to come to you. In fact, I will warn you with the sound council of others and the truth of My Word. Yield to Me today and avoid the pitfalls of prideful and willful decisions that can lead to trouble, pain, or destruction. Trust Me beloved! My ways for you are good.
“Pride comes before the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)