I’ve been bucked off several horses during my riding career. While each instance was different, there’s one common denominator that spreads throughout the stories: the horse was uncomfortable, so they sought to get me off their back as quickly as possible. The important thing to remember (other than trying to roll when you land to soften the blow) is that horses are prey animals, not predators. That means that they aren’t trying to throw you off with malicious intent; they’re probably scared, maybe hurt, and are just trying to find a release from what’s causing them pain. A good horseman will find the cause and alleviate the discomfort, either taking a quick moment to adjust the saddle or spending long hours building confidence and trust with the horse. While the training process might not always be running through fields of wildflowers, the hard times make the good times sweeter.
Sometimes we can be like that horse. We get uncomfortable with where God is leading us or how He’s asked us to live, and we try to get away from Him as quickly as possible. We throw our heads in the air, plant our feet into the ground, and buck and rear because we don’t want to listen to the Lord’s voice. The only thing that we accomplish by struggling against the bit is making ourselves more uncomfortable and frustrated. Instead of leaning into the Lord and His gentle guidance, we barrel headlong into the pleasures and promises of the world. We saturate our lives with our culture’s desires until we’re soaked through with sin, shame, and a sinking feeling that we’ve gone too far this time. We’ve bronced our way to the very end of the rope, and we don’t know if we’ll be allowed back home again. When we mess up, when we sin, when we do what we swore we would never do again, we feel like a failure. The absolute crushing weight of shame settles over us, so thick that we can hardly breathe. At that point, we have two choices: we can either keep living in our sinful ways or be like the prodigal son and walk back to our heavenly Father. Both require the same amount of commitment and effort, but only one leads to true freedom and life.
You can’t learn when you’re trapped in shame. And you can’t grow when your roots are bound up in lies. People can say all the honey-sweet words they want, they can quote as many Bible verses as needed, they can point you in the direction of numerous sermons, but if you’re trapped under the weight of shame, those words are going to bounce off your chained heart. Only by repentance and the Lord’s bountiful forgiveness can you find freedom from the sin and shame that are keeping you captive. By spending time with the Lord, will you be able to understand that:
You are not your failures.
You are not your sin.
You are not the shame that you feel now.
You are not your past.
You are not your mistakes.
You are made whole.
You are wiped clean.
You are endowed with a new heart.
You are lifted out of the dirt.
You are forgiven.
The Lord is faithful to forgive us our sins, but that does not mean that we’re given free rein to keep sinning. God isn’t going to stand by and watch as we destroy our lives with the sins of the world. He’s going to address the root cause behind the corruption through the convictions of the Holy Spirit. We need to seek out and identify the needs that we are trying to meet outside of God, the areas in our lives where we think we know better than Him. Addressing the heart issues leaves us open to the cleansing blood of Christ.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9
So often, I try to cover the redeeming blood of Jesus with soiled promises of the world. I try to save myself, comfort myself, and right myself, but I only end up covered in mud and motor oil. A mess so slick and thorough that it’s impossible to clean off by myself. It’s at that point that I’m overcome with a sense of how utterly helpless I am without God, how much I need Him every moment of my life. When I’m thoroughly drenched in my self-righteous and misguided ways is when I need to turn tail and humbly walk back towards the throne room. There the Lord picks me up and wipes me clean, inviting me back into partnership with Him.
When life gets tough or following the Lord gets uncomfortable, don’t buck against God’s guidance. Let Him lead you through life with a steady hand and a reassuring voice. Don’t be so set in your ways that you try to throw God out of your life. He’s more persistent than a cowboy and will come back time and again until you realize that life with God is better than life without Him. We’re not meant to be living lives trapped in a cage, we’re meant for wide-open fields and lush forests. We’re meant to live in wild relationship with the Lord, walking in a freedom that comes from following His guiding.