Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Time to Get Back on That Horse?

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
Philippians 4:13 NABRE

We had just arrived at the dude ranch for our family reunion and were checking in when the desk clerk, a friendly woman with a broad smile and long blonde hair flowing out from under her bedazzled black cowboy hat, asked the inevitable question: “Are you interested in riding today?”

The next trail ride was in 45 minutes and, given that it was 3:00 in the afternoon on a hot summer day in west Texas, no one had signed up yet. There were plenty of spots open. Was I interested? Yes. Would I be able to do it? That was the question.

The last time I had ridden a horse was seven months before, and to call it a pleasant experience would have been a stretch. My left knee, one of the joints I’ve had trouble with since the onset of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA), was not happy. Truthfully, it felt as if it were being twisted right off my leg. No matter how hard I tried to get comfortable, I couldn’t, and I pretty much decided that perhaps my riding days were over.

While I remember the physical pain I was in during that trail ride, what sticks in my mind the most was the disappointment I felt. With the way my knee was hurting, I was not planning to ever ride again, which made me sad.

I had been around horses my entire life, from the time my daddy sat me up on top of “Kate,” the old mare at my grandfather’s farm, when I was about three. My uncle was a Texas rancher, married to a professional cowgirl, and when I was in high school in England, my sister and I spent a lot of time at the nearby stables where we learned to jump. Even though riding had been only an occasional pastime for me as an adult, it was still something I loved to do when I had a chance.

So here I was, at a decision point. Could I accept the ride seven months beforehand as my last time on horseback or should I try again? Would I take a chance and get back on a horse, or would I sit it out?

I considered where I was physically. My left shoulder was still in rehab for a torn rotator cuff, but it was healed enough to where I thought I could probably manage to get on and off the horse okay. My knee and my hands weren’t giving me any trouble, either, and so I thought what the heck and signed up for the ride.

I figured the worst that could happen would be for me to find out I really wasn’t able to handle it and I would just get back off the horse (assuming I was able to get on in the first place) and call it quits. May as well get this out of the way and find out now I thought, rather than putting off the test until later in the trip, worrying and wondering until the moment of truth arrived.

Forty-five minutes later, with the help of a ranch hand, I climbed up on the saddle atop “Sky,” a white horse dappled with some patches of light gray. It not only felt comfortable – it felt good! And when we took off down the trail, I could tell this was a new day. I was back in the saddle again.

Three days and three rides later, I thought about what an encouragement my story could be to others with RA and other chronic illnesses. I mulled the fact that while I thought my dreams were dashed, they came back again. I marveled at how my disease is so unpredictable that while there are dark moments when I feel it has stolen my very life, there are also bright spots in which I get back the activities I love.

These twists and turns have happened more than once now, so I know they can happen again. Having hope that “the story isn’t over until it’s over” continues to keep me pushing on with a positive attitude that anything is possible. I know a man who was on death’s door with RA at one time, who went on to climb mountains. And I recently read of a woman with RA who is on her way to achieving the world’s record in kayaking! Wow, how those stories inspire me.

And yet, this same week, I read a wise post from a friend who also has RA and some other serious physical ailments. She was reminding us to not get discouraged when we can’t do all the things that healthy people can, and to accept where we are. She is right. Just as we can’t live in the future, we can’t live in the past either. All of us would love to go back to where we were younger, thinner, fitter or healthier. But we can’t. We have to make the most of the present, even when the place where we are isn’t our ideal.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:13. I have always heard it as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The emphasis is on ALL. When we read that, we often think to ourselves if I just have enough faith, then I can do anything. Really? Can an untrained pilot fly a plane? Can we live an extravagant lifestyle on the salary of a street beggar? Can a man without legs run a marathon?

I wonder if we sometimes miss the point of this verse. That’s why I like the way another translation puts it: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” Think about the phrase I have the strength for everything. What is everything? Everything encompasses a lot.

Having the strength for everything means I have the strength to keep pursuing that dream. It also means I have the strength to lay down that dream when it’s not physically or financially possible anymore.

Having the strength for everything means I have the strength to keep going and push through the toughest challenges in my life. It also means I have the strength to “let go and let God” and rest in His peace while He works out the details I have no control over.

Having the strength for everything means I have the strength to fight for my rights or for those of the people we love. It also means I have the strength to surrender my “rights” in order to be of greater service to God and an example of love to others.

In other words, having the strength for everything encompasses both drive and acceptance. It includes both effort and rest. Because sometimes it isn’t the striving that requires the most strength, but rather the act of being still and waiting on the Lord.

The rest of that verse says God empowers me. That’s good to know, because many of the biggest hurdles I have faced in life – whether they be physical, financial, emotional or relational – have not been tackled through my own strength alone. I am keenly aware of the strength God gave me when I wanted to quit.

I have also relied on His strength when the answer to my prayer was “no.” Letting go is not something I do easily, and patience is a virtue that comes far from naturally for me. Like all of us, I want my way and I want it now. When that doesn’t happen, having a positive attitude about it may be the hardest thing I have to do, and guess what? I need God to get me there.

This past weekend, I was happy that despite my previous bad experience, I had the courage to get back on a horse again. But I am also cognizant of the fact that it might not have worked out, and that at some point in time, there will come a day when I will be not be able to get back in the saddle. And when that day comes, I hope I will remember Philippians 4:13 and the promise it gives, which is that I will be empowered by Christ to be okay right where I’m at in that moment. For godliness with contentment is great gain, says I Timothy 6:6, and I have the strength for everything.

What are you relying on God’s strength for today? Is it to push forward or to find contentment with where you are at? In this roller coaster called life, have you come to the realization of your need for God to empower you during both the highs and lows?

Time to Get Back on That Horse? originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on Facebook. 

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' Thoughtful Thursday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. I also link up often with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.

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  1. This is a great post! I'm glad you were able to have another shot at riding and find that you were able to do it! I also love your insight about God giving us strength for everything and how that encompasses both drive and acceptance. It's so true there are times to push forward and step out in faith and other times when we need to find contentment where we are. Visiting from Tell His Story.

    1. Thank you, Lesley! Praying you will find both contentment and strength in Him today.

  2. Linda it is great that you got to ride and had fun doing it. The last horse I rode 25 years ago had the name Mr. Blister. Yes I learned exactly why he has that name. I am hopeful that goes away someday.

    The Lord God does indeed provide.

    1. Yes, He sure does, Rick! In good times and bad, He gives us what we need.

  3. Linda, I loved the wisdom in your explanation about what “everything” means. Those a such great insights and you are so right. Sometimes the sitting back and resting or the surrendering of control can take a whole lot more strength than forging ahead. Thank you for sharing this!