My friend Joanne accosted me as I walked into her barn. She was spattered with mud all the way to her eyebrows. I had seen that look before and it had been on my own face.
“I’ve been trying to get Lily across the ditch for the last three hours,” she gasped, “Will you help me?”
At the back of her property was a very luscious ravine and at the bottom of which reposed a creek bed. Months before, my horse Max and I had a major altercation over this same ditch. To me, the creek wasn’t anything scary at all. To Max it was the Grand Canyon. I can’t pretend to know all the reasons horses take it into their heads to be scared – but you have to figure out how to deal with it.
So Joanne and I took her young filly down the ravine. She explained that she had tried for hours to get the horse to jump over the ditch but was unsuccessful. Judging by Lily’s rolling eyes and tense, twitching muscles, it was going to be difficult. But I had remembered my lessons with Max very well.
“Look,” I proposed, “Let’s do it a different way.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
I smiled and said, “Let’s love her across.”
“I’ve been through this with Max,” I explained, “Lily doesn’t trust us. Let’s be very calm. We have to accept that she might not cross today….but if we work on it in love she will someday.”
Joanne, fortunately, was open to learning. “Okay,” she said, “Show me what you mean.”
Using my natural horsemanship training, I began to stroke Lily and urged her to calm down and not get so excited about the ditch. We focused on confidence and authority. In fifteen minutes we had her across. In twenty she went back and forth with no worries. Using the same methods a few weeks later, she began to load into a horse trailer with no problem. Previously, you were lucky to jam her in there with a bucket of grain and quick reflexes.
I learned so much from those experiences. You can’t spout formulas or scripture verses to most people. You can’t introduce them to a loving God unless you do what Jesus did: love them across. For so many people, life has splattered them all over the pavement. A ditch is a chasm – truly an abyss separating them from all happiness. They can’t get there by words, only deeds, loving deeds that give them the confidence to ask just the simplest question: do you love me Jesus? Until they get to that point all they see is the unsurpassable ditch.
I have learned from my horses that no tiny deed goes unnoticed. Every stroke, every word builds a relationship of trust. It cannot be rushed and it must be maintained. There must be from me, an absolute commitment to inconveniencing myself for their greater good. And in addition, sticking to the truth of what horses are and what I am.
How much more should I be prepared to love those whom I find across that bgreat divide most find themselves? Every little deed, service or word must add to that bridge. If I focus on loving my fellow beings across the abyss to God’s love, then I have been able to accomplish the miraculous things Jesus promised.
I work with a woman who not only does the receptionist job full time but cleans the office after hours. I know how wonderful it is for someone to do the littlest thing so I began to do the dishes that accumulate during the day. She approached me one day and said, “I think there is an angel in the office.”
“Well, I love you,” I responded. It isn’t like me to just say stuff like that but it was truly what I felt. I wasn’t concerned in that moment about what church she belonged to or where her relationship with Jesus was. She just needed to know that someone loved her and was wiling to do something concrete about it.
I share this not to pat myself on the back. After looking at the computer for eight hours, I look forward to doing dishes! But I was so grateful to have the opportunity to love someone. Formerly, my selfish life didn’t have experiences like this. Now that they do, I am eager to love anyone across the “great divide” that keeps them from knowing the love of Jesus.