My twenty-year old tobacco-colored gelding, Ace, stood quietly while I lumbered up onto a one-step stool carrying the stock saddle I intended to pitch onto his back. Eight out of ten times he steps backwards as soon as I get into launch position, but this day, he was a rock.
Which I especially appreciated as I tightened my core and hoisted the saddle skywards—but gravity won and it landed with a muffled thud in the dust. My beloved saddle, the last stock saddle I will ever own, lay on its side on the ground, looking up at me like a wounded duck, one stirrup flopped underneath Ace’s belly.
Trying and Failing the Second Time
Asking for supernatural assistance, I girded everything I had to gird, picked up the saddle and resumed my place on the step to try again. The bad news is that the saddle didn’t make it onto Ace’s back—the good news is that it didn’t end up on the ground.
One of the gals at the barn, younger than me but not co-ed young, must have seen my predicament and walked over to offer help. Of all the folks at the barn, she and I have the least in common, but this was a generous, kind gesture.
Pride Isn’t Productive
After decades as an equine professional, my pride wanted to say “No, thank you very much, but I’ll figure it out.” Thankfully, I was smart enough to accept her kind offer.
“If you can get this up there, I would appreciate the help. Thank you so much!” It took a little finagling, but she got it on Ace’s back and I was back in business.
Realizing that I was working at less than half-power, I decided to let Ace show me where his happy place was and only step it up if he offered. I think most people come to a day when they recognize that they can’t do what they used to. No matter how much you resist, it’s gonna happen.
How easy is it for you to accept help?
Sandwiched Between Generations
Some of you are still part of the younger set who get tapped at family gatherings to climb the ladders, carry the boxes, or do the “projects.” Others of you are the elders, comfortable knowing that you’re on the far side of any labor requiring superior balance, upper-body strength, or full range of motion from joints that haven’t gone there for twenty years.
Then there are sandwich people. That was me until recently. Sandwich people are elders to the youngers, but youngers to the even more elderly. Reality is finally settling in, and I know that I can’t do what I used to and that I’m okay with that (90% of the time.)
Dropping my saddle in the dust was a lesson in acceptance—of both my own limitations and graciously accepting help.
No One Loves Losing Power
After decades as the equine professional, the one with the answers or the one who offers help to others, I’ve lost my ability to do some things that used to be second nature. I can’t do what I used to the way that I used to.
If you ask a thousand people to share a list of the Top Ten things they want, I doubt that anyone will write, “I want to lose power.”
Politicians lose power, retiring executives lose power, parents lose power when their kids become independent, and everyone loses power in the process of aging. That’s where I am. Strength fades, joints fail, and what was once reflexive is now iffy at best.
The Good News About Powering Down
God is all about balance. He never takes away without giving something in return. My father was a steamroller personality—never content, satisfied, or comfortable being who he was until he lost all mobility and needed help for the most personal things. Finally, he relaxed, opened up, accepted his limitations, and blossomed. He became lovable.
I’ve seen this phenomena more than once, in both man and beast. Accepting limitations can bring great freedom, kick-start empathy, awareness, creativity, and make room for a more profound faith.
My ride on Ace was awesome! He had lots of energy, so I let him long trot until he didn’t want to long trot anymore—so we trotted some more. I’ve been waiting to ask Ace for right lead canter because he’s never had one under saddle. (Long story…) The trainer in me believed that I had to teach him more skills before going there.
Wonderful Things Happen When You Can’t MAKE Them Happen
I knew I couldn’t set him up or move his body around with my legs, so I decided to play “What happens if.” That means there’s no pressure and neither one of us can fail.
While Ace was accelerating at the trot to the right I finessed the weight of my hip… and he popped the wrong lead. We went back to trot and I asked for a little more to see what would happen. Right lead!
And not just once. We loped right lead circles twice. Did we have any missteps? Yep, he popped the wrong lead a couple times, but because I was willing to accept my limitations we made a breakthrough.
The Deeper Level Hiding Behind Power
Why? Because I knew I couldn’t GET Ace to pick up the correct lead. I didn’t have it in me. Instead, I dialed all the way back, felt Ace at a deeper level, and let him respond without pressure or even a strong suggestion.
I let it happen.
Letting the horse offer what you ask for is the foundation of horse training. But there’s a place inside me that I didn’t know existed until I lost the power to MAKE things happen.
Getting older will sap your power. It may also deliver greater wisdom, patience, empathy, creativity, and insights into the things of the world and the things of God.
If you’re on the waning end of physical power, there’s an upside ahead. Trust God. Look deeper inside. Give yourself grace and look for new ways to accomplish your goals apart from MAKING things happen.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.—Acts 1:8
Explore Your Spiritual Power
Spiritual power is stronger than physical power. No matter your age or fitness level, try tapping into that. My path forward is as exciting and promising as it ever was—I’ll just be moving more carefully and traveling lighter.
Moving the Kingdom forward isn’t reserved for the young, the fit, or the physically powerful. Anyone in whom the Spirit of God dwells is awash in latent power. Learn to live in the presence of God and let His power be your power.
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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