Not long ago as I entered one of our local horse emporiums a clerk called out, “Lynn, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I replied. “How can I help?”
She wasn’t sure how to interpret her young stallion’s response (or lack of response) from an encounter that morning. He was happily grazing in the pasture when she went to the fence and called to him. He looked at her but didn’t come to the fence.
She asked, “Was he being disrespectful? Should I have gone into the pasture and schooled him?”
I responded, “What was your intention when you walked over to the fence? “
“What do you mean by intention?” she asked.
“Did you command him to come or did you issue an invitation? The answer to your question depends on what you had in mind when you got to the fence.”
“I don’t really know what I had in mind.”
It’s a little difficult for our horse to give us what we ask for when we don’t really know what that is. This bit of common sense isn’t exclusive to horses. How many times have you asked a question but got an answer different than the one you expected? Have you ever experienced less-than-perfect communication? People regularly confuse invitations, inquiries, and commands. If her stallion was given the command to “Come” and did not, then the right thing to do is figure out why. Was he unable to come (didn’t understand or lame) or was he unwilling to come (he just didn’t want to)?
Before calling out to a horse over a fence I predetermine if I’m asking him to “Come” or extending an invitation to wander over for a short visit. Invitations are basically, “Do you wanna?” There should be no doubt on the horse’s part if I’m just visiting or expecting a “yes.” If I ask my horse to “Come” I expect his little hoofies to start making hoof prints in my direction. If I’m just popping by for a few minutes or simply want to admire the beauty of my equine family I ask (invite) him over for a pet or chat.
There is no right or wrong answer to a genuine invitation. “Do you want to?” has no hidden agenda. There’s a world of difference between “Please come” and “Do you wanna?” If the store clerk was extending an invitation to her young stallion then he wasn’t being disrespectful, he was simply giving her an answer. “No thanks, I see you, hope you are well, but I’m content right here.”
The following chapter is from “He Came Looking for Me.” It is the true story of Ace and Shiner, two horses who came home after a very difficult nine year absence. We sold them as happy youngsters; they returned as broken equine spirits. They live in the barn with us today, happy and secure once again.
Come unto Me
The secret of life has not changed since I wrote “Amazing Grays”, nor has the content of the important question we all must ask ourselves if we pursue a relationship with God. God is not about what; He is all about Who.
Not long after the Appaloosa boys came home I went out to feed one morning and spotted Ace and Shiner walking along the fence separating their pasture from our backyard. I take care of the horses in the main barn and Baber takes care of the front barn and pastures. In a few minutes he would feed Ace and Shiner up front, but here they were.
I tried to spend part of every day with each horse, giving them individual attention, working on each unique relationship. As I considered what I might do with the Ace and Shiner that day, it occurred to me that I could begin with a couple of carrots.
Baber was just getting ready to go out to the little barn. I would be hard pressed to get Ace and Shiner to ignore him and come to see me at the backyard fence if he got there first. Why? Ace and Shiner probably wouldn’t come to me if Baber was near their feeder because they still associate blessings (food) with a place and not with a person. They think that blessings are only found at the feeder and that the important question in life includes the where, when, and the how of routine.
I asked Baber to take his time getting on boots and rounding up cat food before leading the morning parade of hungry felines to the front barn. Preparing for my foray into the pasture, I detoured through the garage to swap out barn boots for backyard shoes. I grabbed a bag of carrots from the fridge and scurried out the door to the backyard fence.
Ace and Shiner had moved to be in position to meet Baber at their feeder, ready for the morning’s provision. My first few calls to them went without any movement in my direction. They turned to look at me; they knew I was there. But they still associated blessing (food) with a place and not with a person. They only thought about the “what” and not the “who.” This is an area where there is foundation yet to be laid in our relationship.
I did not give up. Sometimes there’s a fine line between issuing an invitation and begging. I never beg a horse to do anything. Whenever I make an offer there is always a limit attached. If it is not accepted within the established limits the offer is withdrawn and I make a training note to address the cause for the refusal.
The difference between Invitations and Requests
There is a radical difference between making an offer (invitation) and issuing a request. An offer allows for a negative response; a request does not. That morning I made an offer of carrots in return for Ace and Shiner’s presence and attention. Had I made a request I would have been committed to taking whatever action was necessary to ensure that my request was complied with.
Christians often misunderstand the details of communication with God. Do you expect blessings to be attached to a place—your church, for instance? Do you expect to be blessed by following a prescribed routine? Do you attach more importance to the Bible than to its Author?
Do you concentrate on any question other than the “who” of life? If you do, may I suggest you reconsider? There is no security in the church building except, perhaps, from the elements. There is no security in the physical pages and words of the Bible and no routine can guarantee you eternal life.
The only thing that matters is the God who leads your church, the God who breathed the words of the Bible, the God who created seasons, tides, and natural routine. All that matters is your personal relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our teacher. All are one. God is the only correct answer to this most important question of “Who?” None other.
Shiner and Ace don’t enjoy eternal security yet. Evidence of this is their attachment to place, to the feeder, and to routine. Once we establish a right relationship they will begin to look first to me, ignoring the where, what, and how of blessing. Ace and Shiner will find true security once they consider the “who”—seeing only me.
Let’s go back to the carrot question of the morning. I gambled on the hope that I had already laid enough foundation with Ace and Shiner to stay at the fence and nudge my invitation forward to where it might be considered a request. Having made this specific decision, I immediately began listing my options should the boys ignore my request. If I got a no I’d have to immediately launch Plan B.
We’ve been blessed with winter moisture for the first time in years, so the ground is muddy and spongy between pools of standing water. I only had on backyard shoes, not trudge-through-the-mud boots. If the boys persisted in remaining in the where of blessing, I would need to get into the pasture and create movement in their feet. The broadest outline of Plan B began to form as I called again. “Shiner, Ace.”
Thankfully, feet began to move. Ace started to walk, not to me, but he began to walk. Shiner stood still, watching me. I called again. Ace turned and lined out in a direct path to where I stood at the fence. Once Shiner realized that Ace was committed to moving he also started walking toward me.
Whew. That was a relief. I was prepared to slog on out into the pasture and get the boys’ attention, but Ace saved my bacon. In the beginning, it looks like Ace is the one most likely to accept my offer of relationship. (I was wrong.)
They both liked the carrots. The rest will be an adventure and looks can be deceiving.
[Post originally published on Gospel Horse, AmazingGrays Ministry.com]