The hope for the fulfillment of a life-long dream was given wings over seven years ago when we moved to Cool, California. We got our horses soon after. A rugged trail opens across from our driveway, linking up with the entire Western States trail system. I have always wanted to live where I could have horses and ride them off our property. Monday was a big day for me as I mounted my horse, Harley, and adventured from our home to the river. I typically take my horses via trailer to another location.

I was beside myself with joy about realizing this goal. The trails are relatively steep, and my horses are not spring chickens, so I have pretty much stayed off of the trails around our home. Now, I am convinced that we can enjoy adventures on these trails if I help my horse out a bit. I discovered on Monday (if I didn’t know before), that Harley has a strong opinion about what pace is the best pace for heading home from the river.

This morning, as I was having my quiet time, God used my ride with Harley to show me how I often am with Him. I thought about my tendency, when I struggle with my eating, to turn around and “recommit,” grit my teeth, and plan to just try harder. To really put out more effort.  I wanted to understand how trying harder to honor God could possibly get me into trouble–I know it does, but it doesn’t seem like it should.  God reminded me of Monday’s ride.
You see, on the ride home on Monday, Harley wanted to kick into hyper drive. He didn’t want to walk up those hills…he didn’t just want to trot, either. He wanted to BLITZ–at a blazing gallop! Full throttle! He wanted to ignite his “turbo-charge,” light the fuse, and tear up the trail for home. If he had been allowed to have his way, he would have arrived home exhausted, sore, and possibly injured–definitely without feeling good in his skin, since horses are prey animals. He wanted so badly to try harder to hurry up and get home. He wanted to put in more effort for the goal that he “knew” was vital.  

My goal was different. I didn’t just want to get there, but I wanted to get there safely and with a positive experience–where Harley’s prey animal instincts hadn’t taken over (as they often do in a dark forest with spooky shadows and noises) and without Harley arriving home terrified and exhausted. My goal wasn’t just a destination…it was how we would get there, too.

I consistently used the reins to request that Harley slow down, steady, and trust me that going the pace and putting out the effort that *I* was asking for was really the best approach. To Harley, I was in the way of accomplishing his goal, which was to get home as fast as possible. He was positive he knew the best way to get there. 
He didn’t have the benefit of knowing just how far it was, or of realizing how difficult it would be, or that he could burn out–or get hurt. He needed my wisdom and strength to help him to accomplish the very thing he was bent on accomplishing in the way that would be best.

But he said to me, 
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, 
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I asked Harley not to use all his strength for speed. I asked him to rest between my reins and my legs…to go slowly. I asked him to make the effort to quiet his mind (and his heart and his body). I needed him not to display his power. I needed him to be willing to be meek, to be submissive. In fact, to me, the how about going home was every bit as important as getting home, which was the more obvious “goal.”

When Harley did try a couple of times to put his full effort into cantering up the trail, I allowed my body to get in his way…instead of riding with him at that pace, my reins asked him to slow down and so did my body. What may have seemed to Harley like trying harder was actually striving more against me and my goal.

How often I miss this in my journey. I am so bent on accomplishing the destination–a size, a shape, a number–that I miss that I am really striving against God when I think I am trying harder. I really believe that he is more concerned with how we go than the “goal” — some “end point” that I have fabricated and assumed is on his agenda for me.

How about you? In what ways are you convinced that God wants you to try harder? What deeper goals might the Lord have for you to which he wants you to submit? How are you striving with his “reins?”