Amid the distractions of life, keeping focused on what lies ahead keeps us on the straight and narrow.
“Now, lead your horse over the bridge,” I said.
The teenager looked briefly ahead to the bridge, took a deep breath, and then looked back at her horse. With a large pull on his lead line, she grunted, “Come on Rufio, you can do this.” But Rufio shifted all four hooves in the sand arena and planted himself firmly into the ground. “Ugh, why won’t you move?” A long pause of frustration could be seen in the teen’s body language as she began to look defeated. “I can’t do anything right! I can’t even tell a stupid horse to walk over a bridge.”
“So do you give up?” I asked. “Or do you keep trying?”
The teen took some time to muster up enough courage and asked Rufio to move again. Over and over she grunted at the horse, looked back at him, and repeated the same cycle.
Needless to say, the horse did not budge.
Facing a bridge too far
After the fifth time around, the teen was completely defeated and frustrated. She was so discouraged by the whole activity that she became angry at the horse and at me. I asked her if she had changed anything about the way she was trying to move the horse. There was a blank stare reflecting at me while she processed my question.
“The teen shrugged her shoulders and looked at me with a look of complete quandary. I hinted to her, ‘If you want to move forward in life, do you look behind or ahead?’”
“If it didn’t work the first two times, what made you believe it would magically work the other three times,” I asked. The teen shrugged her shoulders and looked at me with a look of complete quandary. I hinted to her, “If you want to move forward in life, do you look behind or ahead?”
She said, “Well, duh, you look ahead.”
“Ok then, lead that horse over the bridge looking ahead and do not look back to him, focus only on what’s in front of you,” I replied.
She looked at me as if I was crazy, but at this point she was willing to do whatever I suggested just to be done with the exercise and end the frustration.
“Now then,” I coached her, “Look where you want to go, set your mind to it and go. The horse will follow.” She responded with an unbelieving, “Ok,” and proceeded.
If at first you don’t succeed…
She picked up Rufio’s lead rope, took a deep breath, set a gaze on where she wanted to go and took several steps toward the bridge. Before she knew it, she was on the bridge, not concerned with whether the horse was following. When she was almost over the bridge, a smile formed from ear to ear, and she was radiating with joy. She heard the clip clopping of hooves walking behind her on the wooden bridge.
“He did it! Good boy Rufio! WE DID IT!” Finally, after a long session of disappointment, the teen had a victory with her horse.
I asked her, “What was different this time around?”
For a moment, the teen looked straight into Rufio’s eyes, rubbed his forehead, and then dropped her eyes to the ground. There we stood in awkward silence.
After several moments that seemed like 10 minutes, I could see a shift of vulnerability take over in her body and she looked up at me with tear filled eyes and replied, “I guess I spend a lot of time looking in my past. That’s why I can’t see my future. The past isn’t where I want to be because it’s painful. I have a lot of hurt there; it’s like I’m trying to solve it and I can’t. I need to spend more time looking ahead. When I looked ahead, I felt safe and Rufio felt safe because of me, and he followed.”
I was doing everything to contain my excitement for this young teen that came to this pivotal moment. Our eyes met and we both just cried together. When she made this declaration, Rufio let out a huge sigh and started to lick and chew. I knew in this session the horse was just waiting for her to come to truth. This was the divine message she was to receive. Truth with gentle grace.
This beautiful, smart teen had struggled for many years in the foster care system, given up at a young age while the adoptive family kept her biological siblings. She couldn’t understand why they didn’t want her. As you can imagine, this set the girl in a whirlwind of abandonment and severe PTSD from traumas of childhood. She had been involved with years of unsuccessful therapy. It was a horse that made it clear what she needed to do to be healed. Rufio was the conduit of love and hope that day.
A Father’s Wise Advice — Proverbs 4:25-27, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”
If only we could listen and put into practice the advice of A Father’s Wise Advice, it would shield us from so much un-needed suffering and pain. Although it is true that we can’t control the environment around us, we can absolutely control our outlook on it.