“Happy New Year!”
I’m still saying it back to people wishing me the same, this first full week of 2016.
Everyone wants to be HAPPY.
Blow the horns!
Throw the confetti!
Spread the cheer!
Let them eat cake!
And yet there’s a dark spot and it’s spreading wild.
We sense it, don’t we?
The creeping invisible cancer, winding its way through our world, our country, our families, even our churches. It’s seeping into us, trying to killing us from the inside out.
And most of us don’t even know for sure what “it” is.
Except there’s this ache. This longing. This empty.
After we’ve exhausted ourselves by exhausting our lists of all the ways we’ve tried to be HAPPY last year and all the plans we have for HAPPY this year, we still find ourselves seeking something more, something else, something bigger, something better. Can’t quite put a finger on it, whatever “it” is.
But we know we need something great enough to live for, something great enough to die for.
So what are we dying for, exactly?
Could it be HOLY AUTHORITY?
~ ~ ~
I walk to the barn, sun shining bright across the first snow of a new year, pure. No tire treads. No boot prints.
I look up and see an icicle hanging long from a broken gutter.
I hear a holy rhythm as she melts into winter’s silence.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
I lean in to the transformation of cold warming, of hard melting as the sun has its way. And I see my own reflection.
~ ~ ~
In the barn’s paddock, our four horses are waiting for me, for feed. I oblige, giving them their daily bread—bowls of grain and a bale of hay.
Two mares and the gelding let me approach and stroke their necks.
One mare pins her ears, glares at me wide-eyed, sclera showing, nose raising—horse language for . . .
Ah, my beautiful, talented, smart, independent, proud mare!
Liberty Belle (aka Libby) is a free spirit and boss of the herd, which is all fine and good. Herd animals feel most secure when they have a strong leader they trust. Libby established herself early in this herd and all accept her position.
But I’m not one of the herd.
I bought my horses. They are mine. Only I get to set the rules. And I expect them to follow, for their own good. When we’re aligned, life works fine.
But when this mare puffs herself up and rebels? Well, then we need to have “a discussion”—a come-to-Jesus meeting where I remind her of her position.
So I go back into the barn and get the whip to reinforce a truth she is trying to deny.
I AM boss.
I go to her and become a horse with her, communicating as horses communicate.
She sees me coming with the whip. She’s not fearful. She’s reverent. She knows I don’t intend to touch her with the whip as long as she’s accepts I AM boss.
So she begins to move, orbiting around me without a lead line attached. Smart mare. She knows the routine. We’ve been through this before. I hardly have to direct. I smile as she circles me.
Yes, my dear mare! I AM the center of your universe. As soon as you get this straight once again, you’ll be happier.
When she’s accepting of her position in the grand scheme of things, I’ll take her out on the trails she loves—to the north line where she longs to run with free rein, me on her back, where we are one with the wind whipping through our manes.
But for now, we’re back to basics. No trail rides, no free run until we have the whole BOSS thing settled. It’s for her own good, but I don’t expect her to understand such lofty things. I just expect her to trust and obey.
So I point to the left. She moves to the left. I point to the right. She moves to the right. I put the whip down. And she stops, looking straight at me.
Is she ready, I wonder?
I look for signs of submission—ears perked, eyes soft, tongue licking.
I see all three.
Now, one more thing, the greatest thing . . .
Will she follow me?
I turn around, back facing her, and stand still. I wait. Maybe 15 seconds. I hear hooves crunching snow behind me. I look over my shoulder and see my mare coming. Excited, I turn. She’s still soft in her ears and eyes, submitted, accepting. She comes right up to me. I raise my fingers to her muzzle and she licks me like a dog. I laugh. Her huge tongue is all soft and wet and I know how much she likes the taste of salt on my skin. I stroke her neck with my other hand.
“Want to go for a romp in the snow?”
She lets me slip a lead line over her neck and follows me into the barn, ready for saddle.
Even though it’s winter, there’s still a green pasture . . .
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-15
God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later one, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.